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Winning the West

When it comes to winning elections in the West, public lands matter.

Polls from Colorado and Nevada show that Western voters favor a balanced approach to tackling the region’s public lands, energy, and recreation issues.

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A week after “releasing” the Public Lands Initiative, Rep. Rob Bishop refuses to reveal what’s inside

It’s been one week since Utah Congressman Rob Bishop finally unveiled his long-promised “grand bargain,” the Public Lands Initiative, after years of delays.

The PLI is filled with problems, but there’s one that hasn’t been highlighted until now: We still don’t know the entirety of what’s in it.

The PLI is an immense, complex bill that covers millions of acres of land across Utah. The only way to fully understand and analyze the details of what it contains is by looking at the specifics of which areas are included and excluded in its proposed conservation areas, wilderness areas, and land swaps. Rep. Bishop has posted low-resolution maps on the PLI’s promotional website, but the source files used to create those maps, known as shapefiles, aren’t available to the public.

The Center for Western Priorities requested these files from The Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office, which created them at Rep. Bishop’s request. A representative informed us that Rep. Bishop instructed BLM to not share the files. Our request to Bishop’s office for the detailed maps has gone unanswered.

Holes in the maps
Holes in the maps

It is concerning, to say the least, that Rep. Bishop would continue to treat parts of the PLI as secret even after it’s been introduced in Congress. The low-resolution maps that Rep. Bishop has released show several “donut holes” inside his proposed National Conservation Areas. Without the full GIS data used to make the maps, it’s impossible for outside experts to analyze the PLI alongside existing energy leases, land ownership records, off-road trails, and other maps to determine what’s inside those holes, and why they’re not protected like the surrounding lands.

In other words, it looks like Rep. Bishop is hiding something. We just can’t be sure what it is until he pulls back the curtain on the PLI. The final maps are one of the reasons Friends of Cedar Mesa, a group that had been cautiously supportive of the PLI, pulled its support, calling a last-minute alteration to the land-swap map “an egregious change” and “a huge step in reverse.”

The ongoing secrecy surrounding the PLI reinforces what the Center for Western Priorities has been saying since January: Congressman Bishop isn’t serious about passing legislation. He’s continuing to run out the clock on a bill that he started work on 1,193 days ago. Now he has just 33 working days left to shepherd a massive bill through both the House and the Senate—and he won’t even come clean about the details.

With a Senate field hearing on Utah’s public lands scheduled for next week, the lack of information about what the PLI actually contains should be at the top of the list of concerns for Utah residents. Senator Mike Lee, who is holding the hearing, would do his constituents a great service if he insisted Rep. Bishop release the full PLI maps immediately, and used his field hearing to ask Bishop why these areas are excluded from the protections that the Bears Ears area so desperately needs.

Read this post on our blog.

REPORT:

Winning the West

When it comes to winning elections in the West, public lands matter.

Polls from Colorado and Nevada show that Western voters favor a balanced approach to tackling the region’s public lands, energy, and recreation issues.