Public Lands, Environment Legislative Session Recap

The news has recently been a whirlwind of coverage on world events and it can be overwhelming.

Even as a journalist it can be heartbreaking and sometimes I have to take breaks from the news or read summaries instead of in-depth articles.

While there are certainly still things we can do to change the world, sometimes the best thing most of us can do is be informed.

That’s part of the reason I’m writing Park Remarks, to quickly update you on some of the issues you care about and ask you to dig deeper on your own.

This week, we recap Utah’s legislative session, which ended March 4, and I encourage you to read the bills for yourself and contact your legislator with any questions or comments.

Thank you for reading and sending me your thoughts on the park’s latest remarks regarding solutions to overtourism, I have read each one and will include your thoughts in my future stories.

So, what do you think of this last legislature? What are you satisfied or dissatisfied with? What do you wish had happened that hasn’t been? What happened that you disagree with? Email me and let me know.

Here’s what’s new for Utah’s national parks and public lands:

In the news:

First:Zion and other Utah National Parks update COVID-19 mask rules and requirements

  • Masks are no longer mandatory in national parks, except on public transport.

Second:Water proposals are spreading through the Utah Statehouse in recent days

  • The Utah Legislature considered several water conservation and drought management bills as the session drew to a close last week.

The third:Zion National Park Plans Prescribed Burn for Fuels Management at South Campground

  • In an effort to prevent wildfires, Zion National Park conducted prescribed fires in the South Campground area.

Fourth:Sion closes climbing sites to protect nesting peregrine falcons

  • In order to protect nesting peregrine falcons, Zion has closed some climbing trails during their nesting season.

Fifth:Zion State National Park speech: Chief concerned about overtourism after 2021 record

  • As Zion hit 5 million visitors last year, Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh spoke about the park’s plans to control the effects of overtourism.

Sixth:Utah’s Southwest Wildlife Foundation Plans New Homeport in Enoch

  • The Southwest Wildlife Foundation is expanding its presence in southern Utah with a new homeport in Enoch.

Seventh:St. George Spectrum podcast: Zion National Park hits record 5 million visitors

  • My colleague Elle Cabrera and I discussed record-breaking tourism in national parks last year on our weekly podcast.

Eighth:Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming plan to create a “hydrogen hub”

  • Four Rocky Mountain states plan to cooperate to develop ways to make hydrogen more available as a clean-burning fuel for cars, trucks and trains.

Ninth:Deb Haaland: 16 tribal water settlements will receive $1.7 billion

  • The Biden administration will use $1.7 billion from the recently enacted federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements.

Tenth:The Water Tap: Farewell, and a few final words on what to look out for in the water

  • My former colleague Joan Meiners moved to the Arizona Republic, but left us some advice on what to watch out for when it comes to water in southern Utah.

Eleventh:Zion National Park shuttles resume for President’s Day and for the season in March

  • Zion Shuttles have reopened for regular service through the fall.

Mailbox :

  • National Park Service Director Chuck Sams testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday about tribal co-management of public lands. The hearing can be viewed on the committee’s website.
  • The Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center has reopened after a months-long renovation. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
  • Also on “Pi Day” or March 14, the Gifford House at Capitol Reef will offer pies at $3.14 each instead of $7.50.
  • Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is expected to drop below 3,525 feet this month after very dry January and February, the US Bureau of Reclamation said, calling for “crucial” planning to response to drought.
  • Beginning March 15, the Bureau of Land Management will launch a new mobile lottery for the popular hike, The Wave, in Coyote Buttes North, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. More information can be found on the BLM website.
  • The BLM is seeking public comment through March 25 for the “Paunsaugunt Travel Management Area” or approximately 185,950 acres of BLM-managed land in Kane County and between Zion and the Grand Staircase National Monument- Climbing. More information can be found on the BLM website.
  • Zion’s gateway city of Springdale has suspended all new requests for transitional accommodations for the next six months. A newly created task force will research new transitional accommodation solutions and recommend the best solution to the Planning Commission at that time.
  • According to a new National Parks Conservation Association poll, nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88%) say climate change is having a negative impact on America’s national parks.
  • The United States Supreme Court is currently hearing a dispute against the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which prioritizes the placement of Indigenous children in foster care with extended family or Indigenous communities whenever possible. Opponents claim the law is racist while supporters claim the law supports tribal sovereignty.
  • The George A. Barker River Park in Springdale will be expanded with a new city annexation plan, the Springdale Planning Commission approved last month.
  • Local municipality meeting times are available on the Utah Public Notice website, be sure to find out when your city’s meeting is as lawmakers discuss public lands and tourism issues !
  • Southern Utah University and the Escalante River Watershed Partnership hosted a symposium last week on “Ways to Understand and Protect Land and Water Resources in the Grand Staircase-Escalante Region.”

Social networks:

  • If you’re planning on visiting Arches National Park in June, timed admission tickets are now available on!
  • Arches also paid tribute to the Dalton Wells Isolation Center, a former Japanese internment camp.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park highlighted its three former superintendents who were women for International Women’s Day.
  • For National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Canyonlands National Park posted an article about the “Arabian Schism” and asked visitors to “help reduce the spread of this harmful invasion by removing mud and plant matter from your shoes and equipment before entering and exiting the areas”.
  • Did you know that tumbleweeds are also an invasive species? Capitol Reef National Park highlighted the “Russian thistle” and also asked visitors to clean cars and gear to help slow the spread.
  • As the snow melts, Zion officials are asking people to watch out for flooding in The Narrows and check the park’s website for updates on the closures.
  • Zion also highlighted its female staff for International Women’s Day.
  • And Hovenweep National Monument is looking for a summer intern!


After 45 days of debates and votes, here are the new laws around public lands, indigenous issues and the environment:

Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh speaks as the Washington County Planning Commission discusses the "Above Zion" glamping development proposal on October 12, 2021.

Weather forecast:

According to the National Weather Service, Arches and Canyonlands are expected to be between 50 and 60 this weekend. Capitol Reef should be in the 50s and Bryce Canyon in the 40s, but both parks have recently seen snow, so check conditions before you go. Zion should be in the 60s.

K. Sophie Will, National Parks Reporter

K. Sophie Will is the National Parks Reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News as part of the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. Follow her on Twitter at @ksophiewill or email him at Donate to Report for America to support its work here.

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