Passed yesterday, the Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act (H.R. 356/S.27) allows the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to relinquish approximately 18,000 acres of trust mineral estate within the southern section of the Hill Creek Extension of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Grand County, which is managed by the Tribe for its wildlife and scenic values. In exchange, SITLA will select equal acreage of BLM mineral estate in the northern part of the extension located in Uintah County. No surface lands are involved.
SITLA intends to lease the newly-acquired minerals to the Ute Tribe, which will then partner with industry to develop the minerals. Under the terms of the legislation, royalties will be split equally among the Ute Tribe, BLM, and Utah’s Permanent School Fund.
Passage of the Hill Creek legislation comes soon after the Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act, which was finalized in May. The Act transferred 25,000 acres along the Colorado River corridor, Corona and Morning Glory arches, and other recreational areas to the BLM in exchange for school trust mineral lands in the Uintah Basin.
“This new legislation shows SITLA’s commitment not only to education funding needs, but also to working with other agencies and stakeholders to protect sensitive Utah lands,” said SITLA Director Kevin Carter. Since 1998, the Administration has been involved in transactions that have preserved and protected more than 550,000 acres in Utah.
Introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, the Hill Creek legislation was supported by the entire Utah congressional delegation, SITLA, the Ute Tribe and The Wilderness Society. The bill was also sponsored by Congressman Rob Bishop, who guided its passage through the House of Representatives during summer 2013. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.