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Congressman Rob Bishop

Representing the 1st District of Utah

Bishop Bill to Halt Nuke Waste and Protect Range Passes Panel

March 23, 2007
Press Release
 Aiming to protect one of Utah's valuable military assets, First District Congressman Rob Bishop today successfully guided H.R. 2909 through the House Resources Committee.  Years in the making, the legislation creates wilderness designations in Utah's west desert and seeks to block encroachments on the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR), including the controversial proposal by the Goshute tribe to store high level nuclear waste dangerously close to the range.  The Bishop bill, co-sponsored by fellow Utah Representatives Cannon and Matheson, passed the Committee unanimously this morning and now heads to the House floor for further consideration.

"This is a great legislative victory, and not just because it was a lot of work for a freshman member," Congressman Bishop said.  "I truly believe protecting the testing range and stopping the high level nuclear waste from being near the range is in the best interest of the state and our national security.  Jim Hansen understood this aspect and I'm grateful that he first made this effort and laid the ground work for this bill's success today.  We would not have come this far this session without Jim's years of work on this idea in previous sessions.  Defending our national security and Utah's military installations is critical."

The bill, named the Utah Test and Training Range Protection Act, has three main components aimed at curtailing encroachments.  First, it helps guarantee the ability of the military to use and overfly the lands that make up the range, ensuring continued military readiness and national security.  Second, it blocks potential attempts to build a rail spur on federal lands near the range and the Goshute reservation, thus inhibiting the nuclear waste storage facility from being built.   Were the nuclear storage facility to be built, it would render nearly a third of the test and training range unusable due to the potential for accidents involving military craft.  And third, to resolve potential encroachment conflicts with wilderness study areas (WSAs), the bill designates multiple parcels of land as wilderness in the area of the range.  While protecting certain lands as wilderness in their pristine state, the legislation also releases a separate section of a WSA, which does not qualify for wilderness designation, and returns it to multiple use.

Portions of Mr. Bishop's statement from today's committee meeting are included below:

"This is a bipartisan bill that has been in the making for several years.  It enjoys the support of the entire Utah delegation.  It has been endorsed by the Utah Governor's Office; and is the result of a collaborative effort between the military, federal, state and county officials working in concert with a coalition of environmental groups and private property owners.  HR 2909 represents the very best efforts and willing compromises of the concerned parties.
"The purpose and need for HR 2909 is to protect our national security through protection of the Utah Test and Training Range.  The UTTR faces a number of encroachment issues which will undermine the utility and viability of the Range.  The UTTR has been described by the United States Air Force as an, "irreplaceable part of the nation's defense infrastructure," [letter dated 18 Sept. 2000 by Thomas McCall, Deputy Asst. Sec of the Air Force].

"The UTTR consists of airspace over vast tracts of public lands in the West Desert of Utah, and parts of Eastern Nevada.  It has the largest continuous area of restricted airspace from ground-level to 58,000 feet in the United States; and is the only place within the United States where terrain-following cruise missiles can be tested.  It also contains vast areas of military-owned land where live fire bombings and munitions testing takes place, as well as one of the few ranges with a large "footprint" of airspace allowing for testing of new long-range stand-off weapons.

"However, hundreds of thousands of acres of "Wilderness Study Areas" (WSAs) and proposed WSAs underlie the UTTR airspace and ring the on-the-ground range.  These WSAs are (some of) the biggest potential encroachment(s) to the UTTR.  My bill represents years of negotiations with environmental groups and other concerned entities to establish...protections for the range while minimizing the impacts on military readiness and mitigating environmental concerns over management and access to these sensitive lands.

"Additionally, HR 2909 takes an important step toward resolving the longstanding wilderness debate in Utah, by designating the Cedar Mountain Wilderness Study Area as Wilderness.  This is the first Wilderness designation of BLM lands ever in the state of Utah and the first designation of Wilderness in 20 years."