BLM negotiators and their bosses in the Interior Department valued the state and federal lands at about $35 million for each side. But the BLM's Utah office concluded that the federal land's worth ranged from $97 million to $117 million more. One of Utah's top officials bragged that the oil, gas, coal, tar sands and oil shale deposits his state would obtain through the deal "could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars."
This is the third controversial state-federal land swap in Utah in four years. An audit last year by the Interior Department accused the BLM of approving a lopsided deal with private Utah landowners. Environmental groups have sharply criticized the agency's deal, while Western conservatives complained throughout the Clinton administration about federal efforts to lock up land as monuments and wilderness.