During the long congressional vacation, Rep. Rob Bishop stayed busy, trying to make the case for two of his priorities, a Public Lands Initiative as well as maintaining his long-held position that better border security is critical before he can support immigration reform.
On the latter issue, we agree with Bishop that Border Patrol and Customs agents should not be hampered in their jobs by federal law due to regulations for land managed by the departments of Agriculture and Interior. Full access by agents in very remote lands, particularly in Arizona, is critical to combatting the drug trade, human trafficking and other illegal activities by Mexican drug cartels.
The congressman has made it clear he is opposed to the U.S. Senate bill, which offers comprehensive immigration reform. Instead, Bishop is for piecemeal reform, a likely slow, heavily partisan process which will probably accomplish very little and likely go in hiatus every two years as elections approach.
Regarding the Public Lands Initiative, Bishop defines it as an effort to have conservation and economic development co-exist in Utah. He wants it to be a local process, with those living by the areas affected making the decisions.
Bishop, who chairs a committee which oversees federal lands, wants to reach compromises with the Department of the Interior that would allow more state control over federal lands. Discussions would also include wilderness areas that should be protected. The congressman, by his own count, has had more than 100 meetings on the topic. His goal, he says, is to get more money to state schools through the land reform.
It's intriguing, but proposals generated from the meetings, particularly if they involve more state control, need to go through Congress. That's always a rocky road to traverse. Also, details on the lands initiative are scarce. We want to learn more about the responsibilities, besides assumed increased revenue, to be assumed by the state if it has effective control over federal land.
We'll be keeping a close watch on the Public Lands Initiative, looking for its pros and cons as well as an assessment of its chance for success. It seems a far better proposal, though, than state legislative efforts to have states take over federal lands.