Paleontology provisions threaten bill that includes Dominguez conservation

Language inserted into a sprawling federal lands bill could delay or sideline the legislation, including provisions to create the 209,610-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, according to Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.

Salazar said language restricting the recovery of arrowheads, fossils and other historical materials from public lands has deeply divided the House committee entrusted with approving the public-lands bill.

He said unless the House can muster up a supermajority to suspend House rules and remove the language, the bill’s passage could be delayed or the entire bill could be left in limbo.

“It could be put on the back burner for who knows how long,” Salazar said.

The language added to the omnibus public-lands bill, Salazar said, mirrors legislation Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass, introduced in the previous session of Congress but never went anywhere.

The provisions would require a permit to remove any fossils from public lands or Indian reservations and could, Salazar said, bar members of the public from searching for arrowheads or other items.

Salazar said Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee remain divided over how to act on the bill.

Nonetheless, he said he is sure a “commonsense” solution or compromise can be worked out soon.

In the meantime, the popular plan to turn 209,610 acres of land in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties into the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area will have to wait.

The legislation, S.22, was one of the final bills former Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., voted on this year before leaving the Senate to become the head of the U.S. Department of the Interior.


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