Salt Lake Tribune Great blue heron takes flight at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, a 74,000-acre nature reserve in the northern Great Salt Lake. (Francisco Kjolseth / Salt Lake Tribune)

SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah appears to be close to settling a long-running lawsuit over control of land within the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

In a court filing obtained by FOX 13 News, lawyers for the Utah Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice asked for more time to evaluate an appraisal of the land.

"The proposed settlement contemplates the acquisition by the United States of certain lands and interests within the Refuge in exchange for payment to the State," attorneys wrote to U.S. Magistrate Judge Daphne Oberg.

Utah sued the federal government in 2012, laying claim to lands within the refuge that lie below the Great Salt Lake's ordinary high water mark dating back to statehood. The filing indicates the two sides settled on where that line is and in 2020, they began settlement talks.

While progress has been made, lawyers told the judge, there is more work to do.

"Any final settlement of the claims in this case will require sequential approvals by the Parties’ principal decision-makers, who include the Utah State Legislature or Legislative Management Committee... for Plaintiff and the appropriate high-ranking officials in the United States Departments of the Interior and of Justice for Defendants," the filing stated.

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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