Legislative report


From Rep. John R. Westwood (R-Cedar City)

Public Lands

On Monday, December 4, President Donald Trump announced modifications to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, after Secretary Ryan Zinke conducted a review of national monument designations and the history of the Antiquities Act earlier this year. The result is five unique national monument units that total more than 1.2 million acres.

Bears Ears will now encompass two monument areas – Shash Jáa, approximately 129,980 acres and Indian Creek, approximately 71,896 acres. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service will continue to co-manage the land. Bears Ears remains larger than Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park combined.

The new proclamation also provides increased public access to the land and restores allowance for traditional use for activities including motorized recreation, cattle grazing and tribal collection of wood and herbs.

Boundaries that remain protected include Bears Ears Buttes, the Lime Ridge Clovis Site, Moon House Ruin, Doll House Ruin, Indian Creek Rock Art and Newspaper Rock.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) will now consist of three monument areas – the Grand Staircase (209,993 acres), Kaiparowits (551,034 acres) and Escalante Canyons (242,836 acres). The three areas total more than a million acres and will be managed by the BLM.

To determine the necessary size to adequately protect significant objects and artifacts within the original designations, a thorough examination was conducted. Regions protected in the GSENM include areas of the highest concentration of fossil resources; important landscape features such as the Grand Staircase, Upper Paria Canyon System, Kaiparowits Plateau, Escalante Natural Bridge, Upper Escalante Canyons, East Kaibab Monocline, Grosvenor Arch, Old Paria Townsite and Dance Hall Rock; and relict plant communities such as No Mans Mesa.

During the review, Secretary Zinke personally visited the monuments and met with local Tribal representatives, county commissioners, residents and ranchers, as well as organizations such as the Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy. In addition, for the first time in history, Secretary Zinke opened a formal comment period of the review of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act to individuals, providing an opportunity for many voices to be heard.

The purpose of the Antiquities Act is to protect archaeological or historical sites in the smallest area necessary. It was not intended to lock up large swathes of land. Since 1996, Utah has endured two of the most significant incidents of federal overreach regarding national monument designations in recent history.

During the 2017 session, the Utah Legislature passed, HCR 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation and HCR 12, Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

President Trump and his administration demonstrated that they are listening to Utahns and the desires of those who live in the area by pulling back a small portion of the federal overreach and abuse of the Antiquities Act that our state has endured. Through this process, they have shown their willingness to give greater access to public land, while still continuing to protect significant artifacts.

This is not the first time a president has reduced a monument. Reductions have occurred at least 18 times, by both Republicans and Democrats. For instance, President John F. Kennedy altered Bandelier National Monument; Presidents Taft, Wilson, and Coolidge reduced Mount Olympus National Monument; and President Eisenhower reduced the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

The recent modifications by the Trump administration restore local input on federal lands, increase economic opportunity, especially in rural communities through grazing, commercial fishing, logging and in certain cases, mineral development, and protect objects without unnecessarily preventing public access.

We want to sincerely thank President Trump and Secretary Zinke for listening and allowing those closest to the lands to have some input on how to best manage and care for them.

 

 

The Other Side Academy

It’s nice to know that amidst all the depressing news on the opioid crisis, homelessness and poverty, there are beacons of hope springing up across this country. One of those beacons can be found in downtown Salt Lake City, and it’s called The Other Side Academy.

The Other Side Academy is modeled after Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 2015. These organizations provide the tools and structure for those who’ve lived lives marred by abuse, drugs and dysfunction. According to The Other Side Academy, these individuals “don’t need rehabilitation, they need habilitation.” They likely haven’t been exposed to orderly, well-functioning ways of life. “When they want to change they don’t need more motivation in the form of threats, fines and penalties, they need more ability – mentoring, training and full-contact coaching.”

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, HB 348. This reform made changes to the way we treat criminals by assessing those charged with crimes and providing them with treatment where applicable, to allow for a more successful eventual transition back into the community. The last thing we want is for our prisons to simply provide a revolving door for those who could live successfully out in the community if they only had appropriate treatment and/or skills to be able to do so.

Treatment is one component of this reform, but providing opportunities for certain highly-motivated individuals to turn their lives around seems to fit perfectly into this idea that prison alone is not the only answer to every societal problem.

The Academy helps residents learn to work together, to be responsible and to follow through on commitments. It is self-sustaining through businesses run by participants, and they quickly learn that to eat requires work. There are no free rides. To be accepted into the program, all that is asked is for a participant to exhibit a sincere desire to change and a willingness to do the hard things that will allow that change to occur.

The Academy assisted with Phase Three of Operation Rio Grande, which focuses on the dignity of work. The plan establishes work activities, workshops, devotionals and other employment preparation activities to the daily routine of individuals residing in the Rio Grande area.

New Transportation Governance Model

This past month, the Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force met to review and discuss a potential new governance model for the state’s transportation system. This task force, the result of SB 174Public Transit and Transportation (2017), was charged with making recommendations on transportation in the state.

They have been looking at statewide governance and organizational strategies to coordinate management and oversight of all types of transportation, and to evaluate and implement best practices.

A proposal was presented—the culmination of months of study and analysis—to replace the UTA board and president/CEO with a three-member panel and a nine-member advisory board. There would be some state control and oversight that would allow the agency to receive state Transportation Investment Fund dollars but because it would not be a complete takeover, the state would be protected from assuming UTA’s $2 billion debt.

The task force will hold at least one more meeting between now and the start of the Legislative session on January 22, 2018, where it is expected that a bill incorporating the new governance model, with additional details, will be reviewed.

Fireworks

During the 2017 fireworks season, a number of questions were raised about the types of fireworks permitted in the state. Legislation was proposed that takes into account the myriad viewpoints and concerns expressed by residents throughout the state regarding how and when fireworks should be allowed. It includes a 40 percent reduction in the number of days in July in which fireworks may be set off, more local control to provide clarity and increased flexibility to local governments to deal with potentially hazardous conditions and easier-to-understand restrictions and penalties.

Business and Labor Interim Committee voted unanimously to fast-track this legislation for consideration during the 2018 General Session on November 15.

Dr. Matthew D. Harris, Nominated to Serve as U.S. Marshal

President Trump recently announced the nomination of Dr. Matthew D. Harris as United States Marshal for the District of Utah. Speaker Hughes was pleased to recommend Matthew for this position and is grateful for the support he received from Senator Hatch.

Dr. Harris, formerly of Utah, is currently an assistant special agent in charge with the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General. Dr. Harris previously served as a senior special agent and assistant director for criminal investigations at the United States Government Accountability Office. Dr. Harris served in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Salt Lake City from 2000 to 2006 and in the New York State Office of Inspector General from 1999 to 2000.

His federal law enforcement career began in 1997 with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Since 2003, he has been an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Salt Lake Community College. Dr. Harris holds a doctorate in business administration from Northcentral University and a Bachelor of Science in public administration and criminal justice from Kutztown University.

 

 

 

 

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