Emery County Public Land Management Act: A Balanced Approach to Public Land Management

Emery County, Utah contains some of our nation’s most prized natural treasures. Winding canyon gorges, mountain peaks, and a fascinating cultural history characterize this unique part of the country and make it worthy of protection. For over two decades, diverse stakeholders have been working to craft a land management strategy that incorporates conservation, recreation, and economic interests. Thankfully, the Emery County Public Land Management Act offers the balanced and comprehensive solutions that have long been sought after. 

Image credit: Bureau of Land Management Graphic creation: Lucero Cantu

Image credit: Bureau of Land Management
Graphic creation: Lucero Cantu

The bill has attracted support from community members all across the spectrum—ranging from conservation and recreation groups to small businesses–- and must be passed in the Senate by the end of the year. If passed, the legislation would provide an economic boost to Emery County and establish an effective public land management strategy for the area.


The Emery County Public Land Management Act is the product of locally driven efforts and negotiations, which typically lead to the creation of more effective policies. In the development process, conservation groups, ranchers, wildlife organizations, and mineral development interests each played a role in discussions and interacted to reach agreeable solutions. The bill, if passed, would designate 577,986 acres of Wilderness, dedicate 383,380 acres of land in and around the San Rafael Swell to conservation, and preserve the potential for recreational activities. All in all, the act would protect over one million acres of public lands, with many other acres falling under multiple-use designation – meaning the continuation of recreational and economic activities. This primarily includes livestock farming and resource extraction which provide crucial lifelines for the struggling rural economies. 


By taking into account the interests of all involved parties, the Emery County Public Management Act provides balanced, effective solutions and should serve as model legislation for future efforts to tackle land management issues. The bill is a testament to the fact that environmental and economic interests are not mutually exclusive; they can complement one another and be effectively balanced to create win-win solutions. 


The American Conservation Coalition commends Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative John Curtis for their leadership in helping to craft this tremendous piece of legislation. The Emery County Public Land Management Act provides an effective solution to the land management issues at hand by appropriately balancing environmental and economic concerns. ACC strongly encourages Congress to approve this measure and hopes to see future land management bills model a similar structure.

Ronnie Thompson is currently a sophomore at the University of Georgia, where he studies political science and environmental law.

Ronnie ThompsonComment