Utah Governor Spencer Cox Says More Teamwork Needed Between Biden And Western States



Partisanship stands in the way of meaningful environmental policy, said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who urged collaboration between Western states, the federal government and other stakeholders as he addressed the Western Governor’s Association workshop in Salt Lake City Wednesday.

“Often times we make excuses rather than coming together to actually solve these complex issues,” he said. “We wait to plead, we continue, we never resolve anything. And we get more and more stupid every year. And for once, I wish we weren’t getting dumber.

Cox made an offer to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris: come to Utah to see firsthand the problems facing the state and the solutions it has found.

” Come here. We will take very good care of you. … We’ll take you to those places and see what happens when we disrupt the force in the right way to protect life, protect property, protect animals, ”Cox said, referring to a project in the National Forest of Fishlake involving prescribed burns, deadwood removal and mechanical processing.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle,” he said, highlighting both the outcome of the project – a sturdy aspen forest instead of cluttered and unhealthy conifers – and the collaboration between the Forest Service, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, local industry, and environmental groups.

The meeting comes as the West faces historic drought, catastrophic forest fires and increasingly hot summers.

The Dixie Fire became the second largest fire in California in state history, the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell is dangerously on the verge of not being able to generate electricity, and the Salt Lake International Airport City recorded its hottest July on record.

A UN report released in August that Secretary General António Guterres described as “a code red for humanity” suggests conditions could worsen. The planet is warming at a faster rate than scientists previously thought, and if trends increase, climate change could cause chaos around the world.

Utah came out of the summer relatively unscathed from the fires compared to other western states like California, Idaho, Washington or Oregon, Cox said. But the Beehive State couldn’t escape the smoke, which at one point brought the world’s worst air quality to Salt Lake City.

“We wouldn’t want anything more than not to have California smoke in Utah. But that means the federal government and California are going to have to work closely together and they are going to have to learn from what we are doing here in Utah to prevent these things from happening, ”he said.

The long-standing tension in coordination between federal entities within the Home Office, such as the Bureau of Land and Forest Management and state and local governments, was at the heart of Wednesday’s workshop.

San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams speaks during a panel at a Western Governors’ Association workshop for the Working Lands, Working Communities Initiative in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“Everyone has their own agenda and perspective and we find the same with the BLM and the Forest Service. … Sometimes we probably listen to local residents more than people from the outside. I think that’s part of what we’re dealing with, ”said Bruce Adams, San Juan County Commissioner.

Located in San Juan County is the Bears Ears National Monument, which was reduced by nearly 85% by former President Donald Trump in 2017 and could potentially be restored by the Biden administration. The monument is arguably the most recent and most publicized example of the tension between the West and Washington, DC

Many Utah lawmakers and some locals see the sprawling monument as overly federal in scope, while tribal nations and environmental groups say the land needs the strict federal protections afforded by national monument status.

And while it’s often portrayed as a black-and-white issue – either you’re for the monument or against it – Cox told Deseret News on Wednesday that there was more gray than usual.

“There is a pretty broad agreement that the lands need protection there… and there is a broad agreement on getting additional resources there to actually protect those lands,” he said. he declares. “A monument designation does not do that. It doesn’t include extra dollars, it doesn’t build a drop-in center, it doesn’t put up signs to tell people where they can go and where they can’t go. These are all things that are really important in land management.

Cox said in April that Utah would likely take legal action if the Biden administration acts “unilaterally” to restore Bears Ears to its original size. To avoid litigation, Cox says, the Home Office and state politicians must “bring many stakeholders together and try to find common ground and agreement. And we are very confident that we can reach a very broad agreement. ”

The collaborative approach Cox hopes to see from the federal government doesn’t stop at the Bears Ears National Monument. Whether the problem is forest management, wildfires, drought or water rights, “the answers will not come from Washington, DC. They will come from states working together here, ”he said.

“I went to Washington, DC, I lived in Virginia, these are wonderful places, they are great. And it’s impossible for you to have any idea what it’s like to be here in the West. And so you’re going to have to listen to the people who are here, ”he said.

Climate change, in the form of drought and forest fires, is also likely to increase tensions between Western states.

Seven states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – lie along the Colorado River Basin, along with Mexico. Arizona and Nevada both use less water from the river this year, and if weak snowpack trends continue, states could take the water rights battle to court.

“Everyone is proud that we haven’t had any major disputes over the Colorado River Basin because states have been able to come together to find common solutions,” Cox said, before noting that states will have to adapt. .

“There will be sacrifices, there will be sacrifices on the part of the upper basin states and the lower basin states, but these are sacrifices we will all have to make, and I have no doubts that we will.”

What exactly these sacrifices will be, Cox did not say. He said the newly formed Colorado River Authority of Utah hopes to collaborate with other states while keeping the interests of the Hive State in mind.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox speaks at a Western Governors' Association workshop for the Working Lands, Working Communities initiative in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox speaks at a Western Governors’ Association workshop for the Working Lands, Working Communities initiative in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.