More than six years after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) closed trails in the Recapture Canyon area east of Blanding, the trails are closer to being reopened.
On May 28, the BLM presented the San Juan County Commission with the Recapture Trails Programmatic Agreement for their signature. The agreement specifies that the county is responsible for monitoring and damage that will occur on or near the trails.
In 2005, the BLM became aware of a series of trails that were built in the area. The county began working with the BLM to reopen the area after the 2007 closure. The proposed agreement is the result of six years of work.
Commissioners asked why the county is being asked to take on this responsibility.
Dennis Peitzal, with the BLM, said that this is not a project that the BLM would pursue and thus, if the county wants this project, they should be willing to take the responsibility.
Commissioner Bruce Adams asked what the BLM would do in Recapture if the county did not pursue the project. The BLM said it would not allow motorized traffic.
Adams pointed out that when the trail was closed, the county was told it was a temporary closure. He asked, “How long is temporary?”
County Planner Nick Sandberg was employed by the BLM at the time of the closure. He indicated that the temporary closure was not supposed to be for six or more years, but the State Director and local managements have changed and there is different thinking now.
The BLM is responsible for the monitoring and damage to resources for all federal land in the county. The commission wants to know why Recapture should be different.
Bob Turri pointed out that the regulation says the BLM is responsible for all archaeology on public land. State and local government are exempt from all fees on rights-of-way, monitoring, damages, etc. He then asked if the BLM is zeroing in on Recapture to set precedent for the county to pay a fee.
Commissioner Adams wondered why no other BLM areas are being treated like Recapture. The county asked for rights to a trail, but in this agreement, the county would be liable for anything off the trail that is damaged.
Commissioner Phil Lyman said that we are not asking for a new trail. “All of this came about because some special interest groups called improvements done by local citizens on the trail, illegal construction.”
He went on to say, “If the federal government regulates to a certain extent, it becomes a takeover, and that is what is happening in this case. Recapture should be put on the BLM’s travel plan where it should have been to begin with.”
Peitzal said the BLM does not have the resources to do upkeep on this trail, so the solution is to close this area down.
Bob Turri expressed his frustration: “Overnight this changes from an area where the BLM is not interested to an area where the county has to carry the responsibility.”
He said that he feels The Great Old Broads for Wilderness advocacy group is behind this and that the BLM is playing this game to satisfy The Great Old Broads.
In 2011, two Blanding residents were fined $38,000 by a Federal BLM Adminstrative Judge for the construction of illegal roads. The fine caused a firestorm of local outrage.
Peitzal pointed out that they can still change parts of the agreement that the county doesn’t agree with.
Commissioner Adams proposed that the county might be willing to help pay the cost of signage and fencing, etc. Then the BLM could take on the responsibility of monitoring and damage to resources, as it is their responsibility to begin with. He suggested the BLM and the county revisit or renegotiate this issue.
The bid to reconstruct the Monticello branch of the San Juan County library is awarded to Tri-Hurst Construction for under $400,000. The building is 52 years old and the roof needs repair.
The project also includes electrical work, windows, HVAC and removing the glass doors to the library to open up the foyer.
County Clerk Norman Johnson reported on the recent sale of errant tax properties. Two properties were up for sale. One is in Elk Meadows. He received one sealed bid for $1,200 from Howard Randall of Blanding. The lot is almost five acres and is assessed for $6,420.
The other property is a 1.4-acre residential property in La Sal. There were no bidders on this property. Johnson recommended that the county sell the Elk Meadows property and strike off the other property to the county.
The county could then decide whether or not to sell it and demolish the existing structures. The assessed value of the property is $31,015. A home on the property is of a minimum value of $15,000.
The Commissioners accepted Johnson’s recommendation.
Administrative Officer Kelly Pehrson presented a letter to the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) about areas of concern on Spanish Valley roads.
The letter states that there is a need for acceleration lanes on areas south of Moab. Because of the heavy traffic on Highway 191, it is difficult and dangerous for cars to enter or leave the highway.
The letter also suggests that the best solution is to add a double lane through the whole area. It is requested that this work be added to a future Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) list.
Tyler Ketron is the new seasonal weed sprayer and Jake Duncan is the new seasonal surveyor assistant.