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"Citizen Co-sponsors" for Canyonlands Protection Bill

PHOTO: A Joint Resolution in the Utah Legislature asks that Congress and the President take "immediate action" to protect more of the Greater Canyonlands region for recreation. Courtesy National Park Service.
PHOTO: A Joint Resolution in the Utah Legislature asks that Congress and the President take "immediate action" to protect more of the Greater Canyonlands region for recreation. Courtesy National Park Service.
February 6, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY - It's more than a national Park - it's a national treasure. That's what a resolution just introduced in the Utah Legislature is trying to get across, asking that Congress and the president take "immediate action" to protect a much wider area of the Greater Canyonlands region of southeast Utah.

Gov. Gary Herbert's recent push to make outdoor recreation a priority on Utah public lands wasn't specific about what to protect or how. So, the resolution's chief sponsor, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said his measure, SJR 1010, is meant to stand on its own, but could be part of a bigger picture.

"Well, I hope the governor will take it as a suggestion," he said. "This is the largest piece of undeveloped land in the continental United States, and I hope that we will be able to make it available for future generations as a recreational place."

The resolution says it's sending an important message that Utah and America value the outdoor industry's contributions to the economy. When asked if it could also be seen as locking up more public land, Dabakis said selling off parcels for extractive industries such as tar sands and potash mining is locking it up - and that protecting it is opening it up.

Dabakis said he isn't trying to rush anything through the Legislature or Congress. The resolution calls for public input and discussion about how the land should best be protected for recreational purposes. To that end, he's asking for what he calls "citizen co-sponsors."

"Rather than just the Legislature," he said, "this is such a piece of special real estate, we would like anybody that feels compelled to want to save this for recreational use in perpetuity to join our petition and co-sponsor this bill."

A companion House resolution was introduced by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Holladay.

The text of the resolution is online at le.utah.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT