The Public Lands Initiative sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop is the single biggest public land issue that has ever had the possibility of impacting Grand County in a positive or negative way. I’m glad that the conservative citizens of Grand County cleared their busy schedules to have their voices heard at the Grand County public hearing on March 17. They came out in droves and it was apparent that they were tired of being force-fed large quantities of wilderness and road closures. It was also apparent that they don’t agree with the new council’s process and lack of real public input.
However, I’m afraid that it was still all in vain and I believe it fell on deaf ears and was just done because it was expected, not because they really wanted to listen and learn.
I believe the citizens of Grand County have a right to be concerned because of the fact that the new council already sent letters to the congressman before the public hearing took place. They sent a letter and corresponding maps dated Feb. 26, 2015 regarding their recommendations for the Book Cliffs area of Grand County. They then sent a letter dated March 11, 2015, which stated their recommendations for the La Sal Mountains and the area east of Arches. They sent a letter dated the following day (March 12, 2015) about their recommendations regarding the Big Flat and Labyrinth Canyon areas. All this was done before they even finished their workshop about the Big Flat area on March 16.Even worse, all this was done before they even heard from their own citizens on March 17. These letters are all public record and anyone can get a copy. They wonder why people are upset. It’s because the days are long gone when you listen to your citizens before making a decision.
Some public comments may have been brash, and sometimes the message gets lost when that happens, but if the shoe was on the other foot and it was the liberals that were not being heard or validated, they would be just as upset and brash. It’s not ever a good excuse, but I think a lot of the deep-seated anger that came out in the public hearing was because of the council’s previous workshop and meeting structure. What I mean is, the few meetings I attended, the council didn’t allow even the slightest comment from the public and it was strictly enforced by the chair. Combined with the fact it’s clear the citizens don’t feel like they have a say or a voice in the process. So, when they do finally get the chance to be heard they are like a pressure cooker that hasn’t been able to let out even the slightest amount of steam.
Good leaders will sit back, listen, and they will try and learn from the people on the front lines. They do this at every possible opportunity, not just at a scheduled event or when someone has something to say that they want to hear.
I think the lesson learned from all of this is that even though the conservative working class of Grand County is extremely busy making an honest living, raising our future generations, sustaining our community and building our economy, we may need to be willing to do even more with what little time we have. We can’t just sit back anymore hoping that someone else will be the person to vote, volunteer, write the letters, go to the meetings, or be the person to serve on our various boards or councils. We may be busier than them and they may have more time and money, but this community is too important to just sit back. This is too big of an issue for Grand County and we can’t just give up now because our local leaders won’t listen to us.
I hope everyone will join me by writing a letter to our congressional representatives, senators and state representatives. Their contact information can be found on their individual websites.
We don’t have to put up with this. We need to let them know that we need their help. We need them to run interference on the extreme environmental proposals that are coming from our left-wing Grand County Council members. We need to let them know that we haven’t been heard and we need their help to force a more balanced approach. We need to let them know that even though our council won’t listen to us, we need our state and national leaders to listen to us. They need to use their influence to help our council understand that we don’t need a ton of wilderness in Grand County to get a deal done. We need to let them know that we can all get along if given the chance, because we have been doing it for decades.
No other county has been so influenced by special interest environmental groups as Grand County, but they have had a part in each county and have still championed the process. I know our state and federal leaders will listen if we will all send a letter stating our united and common concerns.
Jerry McNeeley is a longtime Moab resident and a former Grand County Council member. He is currently San Juan County’s public affairs liaison, working with state and federal land management agencies in southeastern Utah.
ByBy Jerry McNeeley