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Utah Legislature OKs bipartisan effort to create Bears Ears visitors center

SHARE Utah Legislature OKs bipartisan effort to create Bears Ears visitors center

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Lyman and Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, would establish a new Bears Ears Visitors Center Task Force. The Utah Legislature passed the bill on Wednesday.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature passed a bill to begin planning for a new visitors center in Bears Ears to offset impact from the large growth in tourism since the southeastern Utah area became a national monument.

HB341 creates an advisory committee comprised of members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation and Zuni Tribe — the tribes identified in the presidential proclamation by then-President Barack Obama that established the national monument in 2016.

The committee will also include three nonvoting members of the Legislature: one senator appointed by Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and two representatives appointed by House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.

The tribes would be tasked with making recommendations about the center’s location, management, functions, funding “and how it can serve as a repository for Native American knowledge and history,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, has said.

The bill would also ask the tribes to act in time so the Legislature can take action to create the visitor center during next year’s general session.

The Senate passed it in a unanimous vote on Wednesday. The bill passed the House on Feb. 26. It awaits Gov. Spencer Cox’s signature before becoming law.