Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have reintroduced legislation to remove the federal government’s “reversionary interest” on the University of Utah’s Research Park.

The University of Utah Research Park Act is intended to protect and preserve the nearly 600-acre development along Salt Lake City’s east bench, which serves the university and local workforce. Research Park is home to more than 50 companies and organizations that employ nearly 14,000 people. It is considered a key economic and research center for the state.

The legislation references an unspecified “reversionary interest” that needs to be removed because it puts “Research Park at risk of losing its productivity and vitality,” according to a joint press release issued by Lee and Romney.

We’re coming together to ensure that Research Park remains a thriving center for research and development. By doing so, we will support the University of Utah’s continued success and foster economic growth and job creation throughout our state,” the press release states.

The University of Utah’s Research Park is pictured in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 27, 2023.
The University of Utah’s Research Park is pictured in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 27, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Research Park was developed on land transferred to the university by the Bureau of Land Management in 1968. The land was conveyed with a land patent issued under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act.

One practical implication of the patent is any time the university wants to address Research Park’s management plan, “you have to go through the federal government, including the BLM,” said Jason Perry, the U.’s vice president for government relations.

Perry said the federal government is not “an adverse party” to the legislation, Perry said.

“The federal government and the university are trying to clear up the process and the future of University Research Park,” he said.

Lee and Romney introduced the University of Utah Research Park Act during the 117th Congress with the support of the state’s entire congressional delegation, U. President Taylor Randall, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

Perry said Congress “ran out of time” before the bill could be considered in that congressional session.

“This bill is not controversial, but the legal substance of it is what is important,” he said.

Randall, in a 2022 statement released by Lee’s office, said Research Park has become a key component in the university’s mission to foster innovation, advance science and contribute to the state’s strong economy.

“The forethought of state and federal leaders in making this investment of land to the university has reaped extraordinary success and resulted in a myriad of scientific discoveries and companies that have improved the health and well-being of all Americans. This public-private partnership remains a case study in how major research universities can contribute to the success of their communities,” Randall said.

The University of Utah’s Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center and Pain Management Center are pictured in University of Utah’s Research Park in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 27, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News