Congressman Jim Matheson's bipartisan bill --H.R. 4027 -- to aid the Ute Tribe with a long-sought land exchange has passed the House by voice vote.
The legislation amends a 1948 law granting the Ute Tribe the 510,000-acre Hill Creek Extension, authorizing an acre-for-acre exchange of subsurface mineral lands between Utah and the BLM.
"My bill helps the Tribe consolidate its management of land that is sacred and culturally significant to the Utes. At the same time, it allows for potential oil and gas development on land not considered environmentally sensitive that would provide employment for energy workers and more money for the school trust fund. This works better for the land managers and the local economy," said Matheson.
Matheson said in 2005, the Ute Tribe, the state of Utah and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reached an agreement on a land transaction involving 18,000 acres in northern Grand County which falls within the Hill Creek Extension of the Ute Indian Reservation. The Utes hold the surface rights to the area, but the State Institutional Trust Land Administration (SITLA) owns the mineral rights. The bill provides that the Utah-relinquished subsurface acreage in the ecologically sensitive southern area will be held in trust for the Tribe, while the Utah-acquired subsurface acreage in the northern area will be leased for oil and gas development.
Matheson's bill includes language providing for an overriding interest payment form future oil and gas and other minerals developed by SITLA that provides a royalty percentage to both the state and federal governments.
"Once again, getting consensus from all the stakeholders allows a solution that achieves progress for the Ute tribe, Utah school children and domestic energy production," said Matheson.