Ranchers and miners dodged some bullets, and Utah received $20 million for public lands projects in a compromise interior appropriations bill hammered out by House-Senate negotiators this week.
The House had proposed to increase grazing fees from $1.92 to $5.36 per month per cow and calf on public lands - which Utah ranchers said would force many out of business. Environmental groups said it would end overgrazing.However, for the third year in a row, Western senators blocked that increase in the House-Senate conference.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, one of the negotiators, said, "I'm glad we were able to defeat the proposal to increase grazing fees, which would have had a dramatic, negative impact on many ranchers in Utah and other Western states."
Western senators were also able to block a House-proposed change in an 1872 mining law to put temporary holds on allowing miners to buy, or "patent", the surface rights to their claims.
However, the western senators had to trade off and accept a House proposal to set a $100-a-year hold fee for miners, which some senators said would be a hardship on smaller operations.
The $20 million worth of public lands projects approved for Utah include:
- $4.4 million to complete a new visitors center in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
- $1.1 million for shuttles in Zion National Park.
- $350,000 to put power lines in Capitol Reef National Park underground.
- $200,000 for a Golden Spike Railroad study.
- $9 million for payments in lieu of taxes to county governments.