HB225: Bill to expand Goblin Valley State Park stalls in House committee

By Makenzie Wistisen
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – A bill before the state legislature that would expand Utah’s scenic Goblin Valley State Park by entering into a land transfer or lease agreement with the United States Bureau of Land Management was held in committee and in the waning days of the Legislature is not likely to pass.

Although the text of the bill is short, the discussion over HB225 ignited a lengthy and somewhat contentious debate on the merits and language of the bill.

The expansion area “is being loved to death,” said Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. Who emphasized the need to expand the park and accommodate greater visitor traffic.IMG_0414

If they are able to expand the park the Division of Parks and Recreation “would have the resources to give these areas the attention they need in terms of additional camp grounds, potentially improved roads, camping facilities, law enforcement and search and rescue,” he said.

Currently, the land being sought by the Division of Parks and Recreation to expand Goblin Valley State Park is used for cattle, and “grazing issues would need to be resolved,” Eliason said.

Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, expressed reservations that the bill has excluded local participation. “My people from Emery County have called and contacted me; they are extremely concerned. You referenced there have been efforts to work with Emery County. I would suggest that Emery County doesn’t feel that way. Am I missing something?”

Likewise Mistie Christiansen, mayor of Emery town, chairman of the Emery County Public Lands Council, and member of the Utah Association of Conservation Districts, was distressed at the lack of communication. “Representing three different levels of local government, I have never been contacted by Mr. Eliason.”

“It’s not that we’re against the idea of state park expansion but we’re completely opposed to the process this has taken,” she continued. “We’ve worked through a huge collaborative process to come up with a land use plan that we believe in. A collaborative process that comes from the ground up with local users and what Mr. Eliason is proposing to do completely cuts that short.”

Fred Hayes, director of Utah State Parks, remained confident regarding the purpose of the bill and its “cooperative and collaborative” drafting process. With respect to current users of the land, Hayes said that he and the division have worked with and handful of grazers to allow for continuation of existing range permits.

“The Farm Bureau doesn’t oppose (the Division of) Parks and Recreation,” said Sterling Brown, vice president of public policy for the Utah Farm Bureau. “It’s this federal act that’s referenced that is designed to transfer property for continued recreational purposes that is in conflict with the grazing and livestock community.”

Despite apparent agreement over the need to expand Goblin Valley, concerns over lack of participation and grazers’ rights ultimately derailed the bill. Due to discomfort with some of the language in the bill, HB 225 was held by the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee and is not likely to receive further consideration this legislative session.

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