By Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Members of a congressional subcommittee said Friday that federal land managers ignored concerns from locals that a southwestern Utah land management proposal will unfairly restrict grazing, water access and transportation.

The House Subcommittee on Federal Lands took the unusual step of holding a hearing in St. George on Friday to air concerns about the plan.

The dispute is an example of complaints that Congress routinely hears about the federal Bureau of Land Management, said the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican.

“We are here to get to the bottom of it,” McClintock said.

“These issues are not only important to not only Utah, they are important to the whole country,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas.

State and local officials said the plan from the Bureau of Land Management violates terms negotiated under a 2009 law that established two conservation areas.

The BLM plan is intended to restore native habitat for protected Mojave Desert Tortoise, but local officials said it unfairly hurts ranchers and could harm the local economy.

Jon Pike, the mayor of St. George, said he would have expected to discuss his concerns with the BLM before a draft of the plan was released last year.

“What are agreements if there is no honor behind them or no real commitment behind them?” said Kathleen Clarke, the director the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.

Washington County Commission Chairman Alan Gardner said the county is considering filing a lawsuit over the proposal.

Acting BLM Utah Director Jenna Whitlock defended the plan and said local officials were consulted, The Deseret News reported (

“We really feel like we have a good record,” Whitlock said.

Supporters of the plan also attended the hearing in St. George and wore pins supporting their support for wilderness.

Paul Van Dam with the environmental group Citizens for Dixie’s Future said the BLM worked with the public while coming up with the plan.

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican who represents the area, asked the subcommittee to travel from Washington to hear about the issue in person.

U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz of Utah also attended the hearing, as did Reps. Alan Lowenthal, D-California, and Cresent Hardy, R-Nevada.


Information from: Deseret News,

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