Who’s hankering for some good news out of Washington? I know I am. It’s especially nice to focus on something positive from Utah’s elected officials in the wake of Senator Orrin Hatch’s offensive, tone-deaf comments, so I’d like to give props to newly-minted environmental advocate, Rob Bishop (R-UT).
No, I’m not being ironic. Congressman Bishop chairs the House National Resources Committee, which moved forward on September 13 with two bills aimed at funding public land protection. The relentless cacophony coming from the banks Potomac these days has snuffed out the attention the bills deserve. The first is dedicated to funding the National Park Service’s $12 million backlog and the other will allocate resources to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The two bills will next move on to the House for a vote. With Bishop’s support, the legislation has a relatively good chance of passing a GOP-controlled Congress that has been reluctant, to say the least, in supporting environmental protections of any kind. That Bishop is backing such bills is nothing short of extraordinary. The Congressman has historically been against public lands protection without associated incentives for increased oil and gas extraction and industry deregulation. That’s not the case with H.R. 502, according to co-sponsor Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona). “Today’s bill does not condition money for parks on increased energy production. That was not a trade-off that needed to be made.” Instead, funding will come from from existing oil and gas revenues.
Utahns live in a state that is 66.5% public land with five National Parks, so we should all feel buoyed by a bipartisan effort to ensure those resources are protected for future generations. Environmentalists who have typically been at odds with Bishop’s stance on public lands should applaud his effort in this instance, and perhaps even call or write the Congressman’s offices to let him know how his constituents feel. It’s heady days in the nation’s capital, and those looking to preserve Utah’s natural treasures should seek support wherever they can find it.