Bush Scandals List

211. Opening up the San Rafael Swell to development

How it gets done. Back in the 1990s, the state of Utah challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s grant of interim protection from mining, drilling, and logging on 2.6 million acres of the San Rafael Swell pending a Congressional decision on whether it would receive wilderness status. In 1998, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Utah on all but one count of its complaint and the suit became moribund. That should have been the end of it. But in 2003, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton came to an agreement. In March 2003, Utah amended its complaint re-opening the suit and on April 11, 2003, the Bush Administration settled it on Utah’s terms. It did this by capping wilderness areas at the 22 million acres already so designated, effectively excluding the San Rafael Swell and opening it up to commercial exploitation. On August 11, 2003, Bush nominated Leavitt for the post of Administrator at the EPA. Leavitt had no experience in the field but he had helped out in the Utah deal and favored in general the Bush policy on the environment of voluntary controls and weakened oversight. He was confirmed October 28, 2003 and served 2 years before replacing Tommy Thompson at Health and Human Services.

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