Bennett was defeated at the Utah State Republican Convention in his quest for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. The Republican nominee for the seat with be either Tim Bridgewater or Mike Lee.
Representatives from Bennett’s office will be in San Juan County again this week for further meetings and study related to the development of a wilderness bill. The initial timeline is that a proposed San Juan County Wilderness Bill was to be introduced in 2010.
Bennett has been determined to settle the ongoing wilderness issues a county at a time, following the model created recently by the successful Washington County Wilderness Bill for the St. George area.
Now, staffers for the Senator are working even harder to introduce the legislation before the end of the legislative season. Bennett has secured the cooperation of a wide range of groups in the development of the bill, including major environmental organizations.
“We are going to get a wilderness bill this year,” said San Juan County Commissioner Lynn Stevens. However, what is not known is how far the bill will progress with Bennett set to leave office on January 1, 2011.
Commissioners state that Senator Orrin Hatch will take up the wilderness bill.
Some are concerned that political change will doom the Bennett bill, which is being developed with significant local input and foster support for the Red Rocks Wilderness Bill, which could designate millions of acres of local land as wilderness.
“Losing Senator Bennett is bad enough,” said San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams. “It will be even harder if Senator Reid is defeated in Nevada.”
Senator Harry Reid faces a stiff challenge in Nevada and is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents in the nation.
Adams said that Reid, as Senate Majority Leader, and Bennett, who sits on key public land and appropriations committees, have been able to block the Red Rocks Wilderness Bill from progressing in the Senate.
If both are defeated, Adams fears that there will be little to stop the Red Rocks Wilderness Bill from being heard.
“If Reid is defeated, the next Senate Majority Leader will be Senator Richard Durbin, who has been the Senate sponsor of the Red Rocks Wilderness Bill for years,” said Adams.
Commissioners expressed frustration that the progress they have seen may be compromised by Bennett’s defeat.
Said Commissioner Adams, “Really, the only fallout of Senator Bennett being defeated is the possible passage of the Red Rocks Wilderness Bill, the loss of funding for a reservoir at Clay Draw, loss of funds for a rodeo grounds / convention center in Monticello, loss of progress with the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, loss of road and highway improvement funds, and the loss of staff expertise while a new Senator comes up to speed. Other than that, its no big deal.”