County Council votes 4-3 to invite Interior Secretary to Moab to celebrate eventual completion of BLM Master Leasing Plan
by Jeff Richards
The Times-Independent
Jun 23, 2016 | 6850 views | 0 0 comments | 683 683 recommendations | email to a friend | print
  What seemed like a simple letter of invitation turned into a point of contention during the regular meeting of the Grand County Council on Tuesday, June 21.

  Council member Chris Baird, noting that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s  Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) is nearly completed, proposed that the Grand County Council invite Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to personally visit Moab later this summer to “celebrate the announcement.”

  But that idea didn’t sit well with fellow council member Lynn Jackson, who objected to the invitation itself and how it was worded.

  “We should not celebrate something that is going to put us in a one-industry economy,” Jackson said during the meeting.

  Asked later to elaborate further, Jackson added, “ Why should we celebrate the signing of this MLP, a plan that effectively curtails and constrains any future mineral development, and attempts to put severe operating restrictions on existing development?”

  Despite Jackson’s objections, however, the county council voted 4-3 to send the invitation letter, as drafted, to Jewell. Joining Jackson in opposing the letter were council members Rory Paxman and Ken Ballantyne. Those on the council in favor of sending the letter were Baird, Elizabeth Tubbs, Jaylyn Hawks, and Mary McGann.

  The letter itself does mention mineral leases as being an important part of land use in the area.

  “Mineral lease payments are important to our county, as is our thriving recreation economy,” the letter states. “We continue to feel that BLM, through the MLP, is on track to striking the right balance among the many uses of public lands in our county.”

  But Jackson said Wednesday he disputes that notion.

  “Irrespective of what some are saying, this is not a balanced plan for Grand County,” Jackson said. By language at the beginning of the plan, it clearly states its intent is to add further constraints to mineral development.”

  “With the MLP’s overreaching, redundant, layer upon layer of restrictions and requirements, and future contingent timing limitations, it will make it nearly impossible to secure the capital needed to develop the resources in this area. The risks are simply too high,” Jackson said.

  “If this sounds to some like a great deal for Grand County, fine, then let them have a grand celebration,” Jackson added.

  Lisa Bryant, assistant field office manager for the Moab BLM Field Office, said that while no exact dates have been set yet, she expects the EIS portion of the study to be published and made publicly available by late summer or early fall, with finalization of the MLP coming by the end of 2016.

  The council’s letter states that “the collaborative process created by the MLP was, on the whole, a very positive experience,” a statement with which Bryant said she agrees.

  “The public participation in this process over the past few years has been key,” she said.

  Bryant said she is not aware of any planned event involving Jewell or other high-level officials and dignitaries, but that as the EIS publication date nears, the public will be notified and the documents will be made available on-line. For more information about the MLP contact the BLM Field Office in Moab at 435-259-2100.

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