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State receives 35,000 acres ripe for development in land exchange with BLM

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert and the Bureau of Land Management put pen to paper on a deal five years in the making.
SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) –  Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert and the Bureau of Land Management put pen to paper on a deal five years in the making.

It's the largest land exchange in over a decade, involving property in three Eastern Utah counties.

"I think a lot of people recognize we've got property that ought to be preserved and protected and land that ought to be developed that has potential for farming, for ranching, for natural resource development, energy," said Herbert.

The governor says that's exactly what this land swap will accomplish.

It involves 60,000 acres in Uintah, Grand and San Juan counties.

The BLM is taking control of 25,000 scenic acres near Moab, including Corona Arch and Westwater Canyon.

The land will be preserved for recreational purposes.

State Director of the BLM, Juan Palma says this agreement is a stark contrast to the arms approach his colleague in Nevada is dealing with.

That’s where Rancher, Cliven Bundy and his militia are vowing to fight to keep his cattle grazing for free on federal land.

"The solution is we need to find what the answers are together and I think that in Utah we are working together with the governor, governor's office and many others at the local level to solve some of the problems in Utah," said Palma.

In exchange the state will take land, ripe for development in the Uintah Basin.

Generated funds are invested and dividends go to state schools for projects not covered by state appropriations.

"We acquired 35,000 acres of land that has oil and gas potential and other mineral development potentials that could seriously generate revenue for the schools, probably in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars," said Director of Utah School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Kevin Carter.

Governor Herbert believes the state can manage development, wild horse populations and the threat of wildfire better than the feds.

He expects more transfer agreements to come, but hopes it won't take as long as this one did.

"It is frustrating! That's just Washington, they are not very quick on getting things done," said Herbert.

It took about five years to finalize this deal.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Bennett and Representative Matheson passed back in 2009.

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