Washington, DC  Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) released the following statement after the passage of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), which is full of Utah centric priorities, including his Emery County Public Land Management Act and Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act.

The public lands package passed in the Senate on February 12th and the House of Representatives this afternoon on February 26th. It now heads to President Trump’s desk for signature. The Congressman spoke on the House floor earlier today, lauding the legislation. Click here for text and video.

“After 20 years of outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders, I am excited to see the hard work of the Emery County Commissioners, Emery County Public Lands Council, and other local leaders be nationally recognized,” said Curtis. “This legislation will bring long-term certainty to the area through various designations and expanding Goblin Valley State Park for better management. It will also generate millions of dollars to help Utah’s school children through school trust land exchanges. It is hard work to create such broad consensus among a diverse range of interests. Emery County should be applauded for this accomplishment, and it was a privilege to take their collaborative effort and help turn it into legislation that earned the approval of Congress. I believe the final product has wins for all stakeholders and will benefit Utahns for decades into the future.”

Statements of Support

Emery County Commission:

“As the locally-elected Commission of Emery County, we are extremely pleased to see this decades-long effort gain the approval of Congress. This bill will create new jobs and revenue for Emery County through a school land trust exchange, expand Goblin Valley State Park for better management, and give several land conveyances to Emery County for various purposes. Additionally, this legislation brings needed certainty to Emery County by establishing clearly defined land-use designations and eliminating the need for a one-size-fits-all unilateral national monument designation in the future. The final product is a clear win for all Utahns, and especially residents of Emery County. We appreciate the efforts of Representative Curtis, Senator Romney, and now retired Senator Hatch, to pursue this legislation, and help make it a bill worthy of the President’s signature. While it was not always easy, their constant communication with Emery County staff, and ourselves, made this collaborative effort possible.”

Utah Governor Gary Herbert:

“I greatly appreciate Rep. Curtis’s leadership and willingness to work with Emery County’s leaders and interests across the political spectrum to craft a compromise. It’s a great example of the good that can happen when members of a community set aside their political differences and find solutions that benefit the county, the state, and all our residents. There is much to celebrate in this bill, and I am especially excited for the opportunity to generate more than $100 million for Utah’s public school children.”  

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT):

“This legislation is the culmination of years of collaboration and cooperation between Utah county commissioners and local conservation groups, ranchers, recreationists, and others. As a result, it includes important provisions that were crafted and driven at the local level instead of by Washington bureaucrats. I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Curtis and the many local partners, especially the Emery County Commissioners, who have fought for years to advance these priorities, and I’m pleased this bill is now on its way to the President’s desk to become law.”

Ron Gibson, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, President:

“We’re very encouraged about this bill because we feel like parties went about this the right way. This is how the public land debate should take place. From the ground up, listening to voices from those who live here and will feel the impacts, and then having Congress debate it. This effort is encouraging because it preserves sensitive areas while allowing continued access for appropriate grazing and other multiple-use activities in others. We commend Representative Curtis and those involved in Emery County who have worked on this issue for decades.”

Dave Ure, Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Director:

“SITLA appreciates the efforts of our Utah congressional delegation on the Emery County Public Land Management bill.  We believe that the federal land acquired by SITLA through this exchange will bring a significant amount of revenue to the school trust over the coming years, and facilitate a tremendous amount of economic activity in the state.  At the same time, trust lands located within areas that the Emery County commission, and now US Congress, believes should be protected for conservation, recreation, and public enjoyment are being transferred by SITLA to the BLM for such conservation management. This is truly a win-win for all parties involved.”  

John Gilroy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, US Public Lands Conservation Director (full letter):

“On behalf of The Pew Charitable Trusts, thank you for your matchless leadership in crafting legislation that will resolve long-standing public lands management issues in Emery County and successfully shepherding it through Congress and on to the President’s desk as part of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47). This is a signature achievement for you, and we are proud to have worked with you as you brought it to completion. When Pew was first invited into the conversation about conserving Emery County’s pristine lands and waters, we engaged because we saw a unique opportunity to increase access for those who camp, hunt, hike, fish, climb, and paddle in the San Rafael Swell while also honoring the needs of Utah’s communities and school children through land exchanges and conveyances that will provide local and state governments with economic and planning certainty. We believe that your legislation accomplishes these goals.”

John Sterling, The Conservation Alliance, Executive Director:

“Congressman Curtis and his staff led a collaborative approach to develop The Emery County Public Land Management Act, engaging the outdoor recreation community throughout the process. Late last year we were pleased to endorse the bill on behalf of our 235 member companies, and today we join Utahans in celebrating lasting protections for Utah’s iconic San Rafael Swell. The Emery County Public Land Management Act balances important conservation protections with recreation management decisions that will both protect world class recreation and enhance the sustainable recreation-based regional economy. We are grateful for Congressman Curtis’ leadership in moving this important legislation across the finish line and look forward to continuing to work with him to add protections to more of Utah’s world class landscape.”

Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Outdoor Industry Association, Vice President of Government Affairs:

“Preserving nearly one million acres of awe-inspiring Utah desert for all types of recreation was once considered out of reach, but we are now one huge step closer to making it a reality, thanks in large part to Representative John Curtis’ work to get the Emery County Public Land Management Act included in the broader public lands package. We are proud of working with Representative Curtis on this bill to create the over 200,000 acre San Rafael Swell Recreation Area, permanently preserve the iconic Desolation Canyon as wilderness, protect the popular hiking and paddling destination Muddy Creek and designate sixty-three miles of the Green River as Wild and Scenic, among much, much more. We look forward to it moving forward.”

Louis Geltman, Outdoor Alliance, Policy Director:

“Outdoor Alliance cheers today’s passage of the Emery County Public Lands Management Act. The bill holistically embraces conservation and recreation, including landmark provisions for climbing management as well as protections for mountain biking in the San Rafael Swell landscape. We greatly appreciate the efforts of Congressman Curtis and his colleagues to work through challenges collaboratively, and we believe the bill will be a great step forward, both for public lands in Emery County, and as a model for resolving issues across Utah and the West.”

Erik Murdock, Access Fund, Policy Director: 

“The Emery County Public Lands Management Act is an example of stakeholder driven, bipartisan legislation that balances conservation and recreation access in a way that honors Emery County as well as America’s public lands system. Access Fund, America’s leading climbing advocacy organization, supports the bill because it aligns with our mission to protect climbing access and conserve the environment for future generations.”

Aaron Clark, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Advocacy Manager and Government Relations:

“The Emery County bill represents years of local discussion on the future management of public lands in the San Rafael Swell landscape including opportunities for new mountain biking. The bill strikes a balanced outcome that protects this vast landscape while ensuring that current and future mountain biking assets are protected and provided for. The bill was not only crafted to avoid closing trails enjoyed by the mountain biking community, but also designates a 217,000 acre bike-friendly Recreation Management Area, releases 7500 Wilderness Study Area acres into the Recreation Area, and will study and report on the new area for new mountain biking opportunities. This is a win for mountain biking in Utah.”

Nathan Fey, American Whitewater, Director, Colorado River Stewardship Program:

“On behalf of American Whitewater’s members and partners, I want to thank the Senate and House for passing this package of bills that protect public lands and rivers so important to the nation, including in Emery County, Utah. The Emery County Public Land Management Act reflects the collaborative approach taken in its development and protects nearly 1 Million acres of public lands and 98 miles of rivers in the county for their conservation and outdoor recreation values. Adding 60 miles of the Green River to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System, and creating new Wilderness Areas for the San Rafael River and Muddy Creek, protect these high-value landscapes from any water development schemes and will help ensure that these waterways can be enjoyed in the future, just as they are today.”

Phil Powers, American Alpine Club, CEO:

“On behalf of the more than 23,000 members of the American Alpine Club—including over 700 members from Utah—we appreciate the hard work that Congressman Curtis and his team put into the Emery County Public Land Management Act. This legislation reflects broad stakeholder engagement and the Congressman’s commitment to compromise. Congressman Curtis went the extra mile. He spent a day rock climbing with our local AAC members to hear their perspectives about the world-class climbing areas in Utah including those in Emery County. We thank Congressman Curtis for his efforts to protect our nation’s climbing areas and public lands.” 


The Natural Resources Management Act is a comprehensive, bipartisan public lands package that comprises over 100 individual bills. Two of these bills are sponsored by Representative John Curtis, the Emery County Public Land Management Act and the Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act. S. 47 includes 8 pieces of legislation that are sponsored by members of the Utah congressional delegation, in addition to many other bills that will benefit all Utahns who use public lands.

Emery County Public Land Management Act

In May of 2018, Curtis introduced the historic Emery County Public Land Management Act, with now retired Senator Hatch, designating roughly one million acres in Utah’s Emery County for various uses, including recreation, conservation, development, grazing, and more. For over two decades, Emery County, Utah has fine-tuned this broadly supported public lands legislation, which resolves longstanding questions about federal land management in the region and brings desired certainty to a broad range of stakeholders.

This bill is a model for how Utahns can work together to solve public land management questions in some of the most unique landscapes of the country. After years of input and stakeholder engagement, this bill resolves a number of issues affecting the region through a school land trust exchange, conveying certain lands to Emery County, expanding Goblin Valley State Park, conservation designations, and the creation of the new San Rafael Swell Recreation Area. 

Major Provisions:

  • Establishes the San Rafael Swell Recreation Area to highlight and enhance the diverse range of recreational activities in the area
  • Establishes the Jurassic National Monument
  • Exchanges nearly 100,000 acres of school trust land that will now generate millions of dollars to support Utah’s school kids;
  • Expands Goblin Valley State Park to increase the experience of visitors through targeted improvements
  • Various targeted conservation designates for certain land and waters throughout the County

Designations by the Numbers:

  • Current Wilderness Study Areas: 436,643 acres;
  • San Rafael Swell Recreation Area (before SITLA exchange):  216,995 acres;
  • Wilderness designated (before SITLA exchange):  661,155 acres;
  • Jurassic National Monument (contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-era dinosaur bones in the world): 850 acres;
  • Goblin Valley State Park Expansion: 6,261 acres;
  • Emery County Conveyances (various conveyances include the Huntington Airport expansion, Sheriff’s station, and Buckhorn Information Center): 2,852 acres;
  • Wild and Scenic River Designations: 63 Miles.\

Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act

This bipartisan legislation extends the authorization to use upper Colorado River Storage Project Revenues for annual base funding of fish recovery programs.

  • The recovery programs are for four different endangered species of fish located in the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers: the Colorado pikeminnow, the humpback chub, the razorback sucker, and the bonytail.
  • These programs were reauthorized in 2012 and set to expire in 2019.  This extension would authorize the programs through 2023.
  • The bill also requires the Interior Secretary to submit a report, in consultation with the participants in the Recovery Implementation Programs, to Congress describing the accomplishments and costs of the programs.