Brian Maffly – The Salt Lake Tribune
A long-awaited deal will protect remote southern reaches of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation from development and, at the same time, let the tribe and state partner on oil and gas ventures to the north.
While the arrangement was spearheaded by pro-drilling members of Utah’s congressional delegation, environmentalists found much to praise because the agreement safeguards parts of the scenic Book Cliffs inside the reservation from industrial development.
Ute tribal leaders plan a Wednesday commemoration of the Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law July 25 and which paves the way for the federal-state mineral swap.
The ceremony at Fort Duchesne will include a tour of the tribe’s Hill Creek Extension, the region of the reservation affected by the law.
“With this bill, we will be able to protect our most valuable resources while also promoting energy development,” said Gordon Howell, who heads the tribe’s business committee.
The law enables the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to give up mineral rights it holds in the Hill Creek’s southern end in Grand County, a roadless area the tribe intends to protect for its wildlife, scenery and spiritual significance. (…)