House Passes Bishop Bill for National Guard Land Transfer
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives considered and passed a measure that seeks to transfer federal lands currently held by the Bureau of Land Management within Camp Williams to the State of Utah for use by the National Guard. The legislation, introduced by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and referred to as the Utah National Guard Readiness Act, would allow the Utah National Guard to better control additional areas within Camp Williams in order to expand facilities and training.
"The missions and role of the Utah National Guard continue to grow, and we can help them by making sure they have and control the land needed for that growth," Congressman Bishop said.
HR 3651, which is co-sponsored by Utah's two other Congressmen, would transfer fee ownership of approximately 431 acres of federal land at Camp Williams to the State of Utah and the Utah National Guard, as identified in the Guard's master plan. The legislation will help consolidate checkerboard land ownership patterns in the area leading to more efficient management of the affected lands. The transfer is subject to a reverter that states that the lands must be used for National Guard or defense purposes.
"The land in question here is already withdrawn by the feds for military use, so all we're doing is transferring it to the State, for the same use," Bishop added. "This will make expansion and any future upgrades by the Guard a lot easier and less costly."
According to documents prepared by the National Guard, the land transfer will open up easier access to utilities and services necessary to support expanded development and military use. The reduced cost to bring these services into certain areas within Camp Williams represents a significant economic advantage when considering the cost of upgrading old and inadequate services already onsite.
In testimony before the Natural Resources Committee on March 6, Colonel Scott Olson of the Utah National Guard warned that failure to transfer the lands referenced in the bill could have "several significant negative impacts." He added that with the bill the Guard would gain greater efficiency in planning and be able to negate the costs associated with a piecemeal approach to expansion.
Representative Bishop, who sits on both the Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees, applauded the State of Utah and the National Guard for working constructively with his office on this legislation. "I'm proud of the training that takes place at Camp Williams and the military service the Guard provides around the world," he said. "And so I'm glad we can clarify who will own and control these areas within Camp Williams, so that the Guard can continue to grow and do what they do so well in protecting us and our country."
A subcommittee hearing for the legislation and a subsequent full committee mark-up in the House Resources Committee were held in March of this year. The full House of Representatives then passed the bill out favorably Monday afternoon on a unanimous voice vote. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.