Emery Co. wilderness protection bill unveiled, environmental groups skeptical

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. John Curtis introduced a new bill designed to protect about a million acres of land in Emery County.

The bill, introduced in Congress on Wednesday, creates the Jurassic National Monument, converts a wilderness study area into wilderness protection, and expands Goblin Valley State Park.

“I am excited to champion this bill that helps add new resources and economic development opportunities to Emery County, and brings together conservation organizations, motorized and non-motorized recreation, sportsmen, local officials and governments, the State of Utah, the Congressional delegation, and many others. This is truly a local solution championed by the locals closest to the land,” said Rep. Curtis in a statement.

He said the bill was bipartisan and with input from conservation groups. Sen. Hatch said in his own statement it achieved a balance between all sides of the ideological spectrum.

“This historic bill balances the need for access and protection, providing a lasting solution to the longstanding management issues facing Emery County,” he said.

See a map of the proposed protection area here:

However, environmental groups raised concerns it left some areas unprotected and did more harm to lands in southeastern Utah.

“The same politicians who instigated and celebrated the illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are now trying to claim that their San Rafael bill is a ‘conservation bill’,” said Scott Groene of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in a statement. “In fact, Hatch’s bill represents a big step backwards for wilderness, emphasizing motorized recreation over conservation and leaving more than 900,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands without protection.”

SUWA was launching TV ads targeting the bill.

See the ad here: