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Brown’s Hole Road (CR 130).  Mary Cokenour photo
Brown’s Hole Road (CR 130). Mary Cokenour photo
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Reps. Chaffetz, Bishop expect to release “discussion draft” for Public Lands Initiative
Sep 02, 2015 | 184 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With recommendations from seven counties in eastern Utah and a host of other groups, local congressmen are preparing the final recommendations for the Public Lands Initiative. Representatives from the office of Congressman Jason Chaffetz visited recently in San Juan County to discuss the initiative. They include Communications Director Jennifer Scott, Press Secretary MJ Henshaw, and Energy and Natural Resource Advisor Kelsey Berg. A final “discussion draft” of the proposed legislation is expected to be released in coming weeks. The Congressmen hope for support from local residents when the legislation is introduced before the House of Representatives. “This is the only proposal that has involved local residents in the process,” said Jenifer Scott. “It has been a big effort and we want to get it right. We want a bill that will pass, and we want certainty in the process.” The Public Lands Initiative is an effort to settle decades-long public lands questions through congressional action. President Obama has threatened to use executive action to unilateral deal with these issues. Utah Congressmen Chaffetz and Rob Bishop have worked for several years to develop the Public Lands Initiative. It is hoped by the Congressmen that the effort to invite every party to the table and to drive the process with intense local involvement will result in a lands bill with broad public support. Seven counties participated in the process, with the latest entry being the San Juan County proposal, which was submitted in August. Other counties participating in the process include Uintah, Carbon, Summit, Duchesne, Emery, and Grand counties. The representatives of Congressman Chaffetz’ office called the effort “a great collaborative effort, a county-up approach that involves local residents in the process.” A key feature of the proposed legislation is that the Antiquities Act could not be used by the President to create national monuments in the seven-county area. In 1996, Pres. Bill Clinton unilaterally declared the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument using the Antiquities Act with no local input. Prior Congressional actions have exempted executive use of the Antiquities Act in Alaska and Wyoming. Another feature of the legislation is a transfer of lands controlled by the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). This will account for several hundred thousand acres in the proposal and would move the SITLA lands to more usable areas. Three counties, including San Juan, Uintah and Carbon, included an Energy Zone in the recommendation. The Energy Zone would include “expedited permitting” for projects within the Energy Zone. It is anticipated that a draft of the Public Lands Initiative could be presented before the U.S. House of Representatives in September. According to the staff members, the recommendations made by each county forms the base for the proposal. Emery County is considering a possible Jurassic National Monument designation for the Cleveland Lloyd Park, an quarry near Cleveland which includes the highest concentration of dinosaur remains in North America. In addition, Uintah County is considering an upgrade of Dinosaur National Monument, possibly to National Park status. According to Chaffetz’ staff, there is no consideration for a national monument in or near San Juan County. The Public Lands Initiative was developed, in part, to help counter threats of the unilateral designation of national monuments in the area. In recent months, environmental advocacy groups have pushed for the creation of new national monuments in San Juan County, including the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument and the Bears Ears Proposal.
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New motions on Recapture case
Sep 02, 2015 | 186 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There were a host of motions and rulings in the case involving two San Juan County residents who were convicted for the May 10, 2014 Recapture Canyon protest. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and Monticello resident Monte Wells are scheduled to be sentenced on September 15 in the US District Court in Salt Lake City. They will see a new face behind the bar at the sentencing after Federal Judge Robert Shelby, on August 28, recused himself from further proceedings in the matter. In July, Lyman’s attorneys had filed a motion stating that Shelby should be disqualified because of his personal relationship with the legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). Shelby stated that, until the motion was filed, he was unaware of any involvement in the proceeding by SUWA – which is not a party to the case. However, after the conviction, SUWA and other groups submitted a letter seeking to influence the court sentencing decision. In his motion, Shelby said that his recusal will “promote confidence in these proceedings and avoid even the appearance of impropriety in connection with the court’s sentencing duties.” In a related matter earlier in the week, attorneys representing the US government outlined their position regarding sentencing in the case. They seek jail time for Lyman and Wells. According to the US Attorneys, the request is made because the defendant’s actions “amount to a calculated, mass defiance of the criminal law.” The motion states that “instead of choosing... numerous legally-permissable mechanisms to express their disagreement with federal decision, the defendants chose crime.” It adds that the crimes include “recruiting dozens of others to join them in breaking the law.” As a result, the US Attorney’s office is seeking a number of penalties for Wells and Lyman, including “a reasonable term of incarceration”, a term of supervised release, a fine, and restitution in the amount of $95,955.61. Lyman and Wells were each convicted of two counts related to the May 10, 2014 protest. The event was held to protest the 2007 closure of portions of Recapture Canyon to motorized traffic by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the subsequent years of delay to resolve the closure. On the day of the event, a large group of people participated in a protest rally in Blanding, before a group traveled through portions of the canyon. Lyman crossed the closure boundary but stayed on a pipeline maintenance road during the protest. Several dozen ATVs traveled further on a more primitive road through the canyon. The BLM initially stated that the protest ride caused $172,302.70 in damages. A subsequent filing put the damages at $95,955.61. Lyman and Wells were convicted after a four-day jury trial. Two other San Juan County men were acquitted by the jury. Each conviction includes a possible sentence of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Using sentencing guidelines, the US Attorney says that the potential incarceration is ten to 12 months for Lyman, with a fine between $3,000 and $30,000. Similarly, the potential incarceration is six to to 12 months for Wells, with a fine between $2,000 and $20,000. Restitution and supervised release could be above and beyond the incarceration and fine. As of the press deadline on August 31, it is not known if the sentencing will be delayed again. The initial sentencing was scheduled to take place on July 15, but was delayed to September 15 after Lyman hired a new attorney. On August 25, attorneys for Lyman filed a motion requesting a new trial for the charges. They argue that the case should be retried because “newly discovered exculpatory evidence suggests that Lyman was on a R.S. 2477 right-of-way that could not be closed to off-road vehicles by the BLM.” The motion claims that a 1979 BLM map appears to show a road leading through Recapture Canyon. In a related affidavit, Utah Representative Mike Noel said that the map identifies “a public highway running south through the entire length of Recapture Canyon” from the dam site all the way to another main route. In the motion for a new trial, Lyman’s attorneys argue that the government inadvertently violated the law by failing to disclose the evidence of the R.S. 2477 right-of-way. In addition, the State of Utah has informed the BLM that it intends to file a lawsuit to claim a road right-of-way on the road through Recapture Canyon.
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Local resident dies from case of the plague
Sep 02, 2015 | 317 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A San Juan County resident died from plague earlier this month. This is the first Utah resident to be diagnosed with plague since 2009. San Juan Public Health officials are anxious to make residents aware of the situation, primarily because the disease is treatable with modern antibiotics. “People can panic when they hear the word ‘plague’ because it was so deadly in the Middle Ages,” said Public Health Director Worthy Glover, Jr. “However, if you are vigilant and mindful, it is very treatable.” Plague is a rare, life-threatening, flea-borne illness that is maintained in a rodent-flea transmission cycle. Species such as prairie dogs, black footed-ferrets, squirrels, and rabbits are especially susceptible and experience high mortality upon infection. Plague is naturally occurring in Utah, and typically seen in the prairie dog populations each year. The investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding the local resident’s illness. The patient may have contracted the disease from a flea, or from contact with a dead animal. At this time, public health officials believe there was no travel history indicating the resident traveled anywhere else where plague is common. Human plague occurs in areas where the bacteria are present in wild rodent populations.  The risks are generally highest in rural and semi-rural areas, including campsites and homes that provide food and shelter for various ground squirrels, chipmunks and wood rats, or other areas where you may encounter rodents. Plague is a very serious illness, but it is treatable with commonly available antibiotics. The earlier a patient seeks medical care and receives treatment that is appropriate for plague, the better the chance for a full recovery. Some common symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, and weakness. If you are experiencing symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. “If you have a high fever with a persistent cough, seek medical help,” said Glover. To protect you, your family, and your pets: • Reduce rodent habitat around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food. Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof. • Always wear gloves if you are handling or skinning wild animals to prevent contact between your skin and potential plague bacteria. Contact your local health department if you have questions about disposal of dead animals. • Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label). • Keep fleas off of your pets by regularly applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague-infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. Keep pets away from wild animals. If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible. • Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free outside to sleep on your bed. • Cook all wild game meat properly to a minimum of 165°F inner temperature. • Clean and disinfect all knives and equipment used to process wild game. • Do not feed raw game meat or inner organs to pets. Notify your local Utah Division of Wildlife Resources if you see an unusual number of dead prairie dogs, squirrels, or rabbits in any given area.
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