Rudy Herndon, The Moab Times-Independent
It has taken much longer than expected, but state and federal officials say they’re close to finalizing a land swap that will allow them to trade scenic recreational areas in Grand County for energy-rich lands near Vernal.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) state office is hoping to release its final decision on the Utah Recreational Land Exchange in January 2014, according to external affairs chief Megan Crandall.
The agency plans to publish its previously approved appraisal reports in the Federal Register at the same time, kicking off a 45-day public protest period.
If no one challenges the decision, the titles for each parcel will change hands between the BLM and Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) 60 days after the publication date, Crandall said.
Under the exchange, SITLA will transfer popular recreation areas along the Colorado River corridor, including Corona Arch, Morning Glory Arch and Castle Valley-area lands, to the BLM. SITLA, in turn, will gain ownership of natural gas-rich parcels in the Uintah Basin, where energy development could help fund the state’s public schools.
Congress cleared the way for the transfer in 2009, when it approved the Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act.