Utah Republican moves quickly on 'modern day Indian land grab'

A view of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah. Photo by Andrey Zharkikh

A controversial bill slammed by the Ute Tribe as a "modern day Indian land grab" is moving forward just days after an emotional hearing on Capitol Hill.

H.R.5780, the Utah Public Lands Initiative Act, transfers 100,000 acres from the tribe's reservation to the state of Utah and imposes management changes on another 200,000 acres on the reservation. The provisions were added to the 215-page bill without the tribe's consent.

"This modern day Indian land grab cannot be allowed to stand," the tribe said in a statement on Indianz.Com last week. "The federal government rejected these devastating policies long ago as tribes prospered under policies of tribal self-determination and restoring and protecting tribal homelands."

Despite the inclusion of the provisions, Ute leaders were not invited to testify at a September 14 hearing on the bill. They were present in the audience but otherwise have not been asked to participate in the process.

But Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the sponsor of H.R.5780, defended the Utah Public Lands Initiative, noting that his bill was introduced after extensive public outreach. He indicated more hearings were possible but so far none have been scheduled.

"This is not 'the hearing' on this bill, it is a hearing," Bishop said last week.

As the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Bishop has the power to move H.R.5780 through the 114th Congress regardless of any objections. He has previously outlined an aggressive schedule for its consideration and appears to be sticking to that plan by putting the bill on the schedule for a markup this week.

The markup will start on Wednesday afternoon and conclude on Thursday morning. Both sessions will be webcast.

House Committee on Natural Resources Notices:
Markup on 5 Bills (September 21, 2016)
Markup on 5 Bills (September 22, 2016)

An Opinion from Willie Grayeyes of Utah Diné Bikéyah:
Willie Grayeyes: Bears Ears Monument request seeks to preserve aboriginal lands (The Deseret News 9/18)

Prior House Committee on Natural Resources Notice:
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 5780 “Utah Public Lands Initiative Act” (September 14, 2016)

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions:
Becker v. Ute Indian Tribe [Amended] (August 29, 2016)
Ute Tribe v. Utah (June 16, 2015)

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