County council sends letter to Obama opposing Canyonlands monument

The Grand County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter to President Barack Obama opposing creation of national monument status for 1.4 million acres surrounding Canyonlands National Park.

The letter, proposed by council member Lynn Jackson, is in response to the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) Nov. 13 letter to Obama urging monument status. The Utah Association of Counties and the Emery County Commission have also sent letters to Obama opposing the monument designation.

Jackson said prior to the vote that he’s against the process that Obama could use to designate the monument. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the president could act alone to create the monument, without input from or action by Congress.

“I am opposed to this particular process,” said Jackson.

He added that “relatively modest mineral development revenue to the county” would be lost under monument protection. The letter makes that point more strongly, saying the move “… would severely limit our county’s ability to benefit economically from other types of natural resource development, primarily oil, gas and potash resources that occur in Grand County within the area proposed for Monument designation.”

The proposal would include about 140,000 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management and state administered land in southwest Grand County, according to background information Jackson provided to the council. San Juan, Emery, Wayne and Garfield counties also would be affected.

Losing mineral extraction ability there would move Grand County closer to a one-industry economy, Jackson told council members. He called that “dangerous” to the county’s financial health, recalling the boom and bust days of uranium extraction here.

Jackson made similar comments to the Sagebrush Coalition, during that group’s Jan. 8 meeting. The Sagebrush Coalition has voiced concerns that national monument status, as proposed by the OIA, would result in significant limitations to motorized access and mineral exploration in the proposed area.

Jackson said mineral extraction does not threaten Grand County’s thriving tourism industry.

“We have an iconic landscape,” he said. “We’re certainly not going to do anything to spoil it.”

The letter added, “We strongly oppose any type of non-collaborative process that has the potential for such serious consequences for the county.”

During an interview after the meeting, Jackson said the council did no polling or surveying of Grand County citizens before taking its stand. Jackson said that, as a long-time Moab resident, he understands how most people feel and believes a majority would object to the use of the Antiquities Act.

The letter will be sent to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah congressional delegation, and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in addition to Obama.

The letter also states that the OIA doesn’t represent all recreation business and industry in the region.

“Their focus is primarily on non-motorized outdoor recreation and their insinuations that they represent and speak for all recreation business interests are misrepresentative,” the letter states. “The OIA implication of imminent destruction of our landscape from allegedly uncontrolled motorized recreation and mineral development is unfounded and can be readily disputed by factual analysis.”

Motorized recreation would still be allowed under provisions of a national monument, according to a spokesman for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the controversial Utah monument designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Of the 908 miles approved for recreational use there, 553 are open to ATVs and motorcycles, Larry Crutchfield said in a Dec. 13 story in The Times-Independent.

However, the president of a Kanab off-road vehicle club said at that time that members aren’t happy with the Staircase monument. He acknowledged many miles of trails remain open, but said motor vehicles are banned on other routes.

“They did close a lot of roads,” Tony Wright said. “We lost a lot of good roads we had been using for years. It hasn’t worked well for us.”

ByBy Steve Kadel

staff writer