State of Utah Withdrawals Support for Trust Lands Administration’s Land Exchange
Bears Ears Commission issues statement
Bears Ears National Monument – Feb. 9, 2024 – On Tuesday we learned that Governor Cox sent a letter to Secretary Haaland expressing that the State of Utah is withdrawing their support of the Trust Lands Administration’s (TLA) land exchange with the federal government.
This land exchange was prompted by the Obama and Biden Proclamations that established and then restored the Bears Ears National Monument, and its purpose is to exchange state lands within the Monument boundaries for federal lands outside of the Monument’s borders.
Much of the land within the Monument’s boundaries is hard to develop due to federal laws protecting cultural resources. This land exchange would have swapped state lands within Bears Ears for federal lands outside of the Monument allowing the TLA to turn a profit. As a matter of fact, the state would have provided 162,500 acres of state land in exchange for 167,500 acres of profitable federal land. The proceeds generated from these state lands are used to fund the Utah public school system, and would have been a win for the state.
The TLA has a statutory duty to maximize proceeds for Utah’s public schools, and they have a legal obligation to protect archeological resources on state lands. Over the better part of the last year, while creating this land exchange, the TLA felt that this land exchange satisfied both of those directives.
Utah’s withdrawal of support for this land exchange is to the detriment of Utah’s school children and the cultural and natural resources within the Bears Ears National Monument.
We hope Utah reconsiders their position on the TLA land exchange.
See the statement issued by the Bears Ears Commission in response to this news:
The Bears Ears Commission is committed to protecting the Bears Ears National Monument, and we are disappointed to learn of Utah’s withdrawal of support for the Trust Lands Administration’s (TLA) land exchange with the federal government. The exchange would have swapped out 167,500 acres of federal land outside of the Monument for 162,500 acres of state land within the Monument, consistent with the TLA’s statutory duty to maximize revenue generation for Utah’s public schools. The proposed land exchange was also consistent with the TLA’s statutory duty to protect archeological (cultural) resources on state lands. Significantly, the TLA had previously determined that the exchange satisfied both requirements.
We believe that it is in the best interest of Utah’s school-age children and the Monument for the land exchange to be accomplished. It is our obligation to our ancestors, to the Bears Ears landscape and its unique resources, and to the American people, to protect Bears Ears, and we remain committed to that goal.
We hope that Utah’s elected officials will reconsider their position and that the state is, as Governor Cox said, “ready to renew discussions of a land exchange.”