Meeting to address endangered species designation for Gunnison sage grouse
Feb 06, 2013 | 8436 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
San Juan County officials urge local residents to attend a hearing on February 7 on the possible designation of the Gunnison Sage Grouse as an endangered species. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at Monticello High School in Monticello.

“It is critical that people attend the meeting and then make written comment on the proposals,” said San Juan County Planner Nick Sandberg.

Sandberg added that unless residents make a written comment on the proposal at this time, they may not have standing to make statements in the future regarding the sage grouse issue.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing the endangered species designation, along with declaring millions of acres of land as critical habitat.

County officials state that the endangered species designation may be difficult to stop, as it part of a court settlement. However, they hope to derail the designation of large swaths of land as critical habitat.

The critical habitat designation would spread across portions of Colorado and Utah, including 70,595 acres of land in San Juan County. Approximately 95 percent of the acreage in San Juan County is private and represents nearly 20 percent of the total private land in the county.

San Juan County government is “aggressively trying to find ways to help land owners and mineral rights owners” on the issue, said Commissioner Bruce Adams. Adams called the possible designation the most important issue facing the county.

Adams outlined a number of ideas under consideration after Sandberg completed an exhaustive review of federal law, stating, “We want the Federal government to follow their own rules.”

The county is planning opposition to the designation based on exclusions approved in the Endangered Species Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Executive Orders regarding impacts of federal actions on the energy supply and the taking of private property rights.

County officials explain that the economic impact of federal action must be taken into account and losing 20 percent of the private property in the county could have a dramatic impact on the economy.

Commissioner Phil Lyman said, “If you take out everything else, it boils down to private property rights. Those laws are unconstitutional because they don’t support state or individual sovereignty. This is not a public lands issue, it is a private property rights issue.”

Lyman encouraged participation and added, “Whatever they can do to those land owners they can do to the rest of us.”

Commissioners announced that a resolution before the Utah State legislature would oppose the designation of critical habitat on private property in San Juan County.

At the February 4 meeting of the San Juan County Commission, members of the Mexican Hat community approached the Commission with a request that the county help subsidize the expenses to run the Special Service District that provides services to the small community.

Danny Fleming, who manages the Special Service District, said that a $22,000 subsidy from the county government would help the district avoid an increase in fees.

Fleming said that over the past several years, the district has seen a 169 percent increase in Transient Room Tax collections, a 90 percent increase in sales tax collections and an entirely new tax on restaurants.

In total, the district collects about $105,000 in annual revenues, but additional increases may be needed because of increased costs.

Commissioners said that they support the community of Mexican Hat and would like to see local residents more involved in the governing decisions.

Approximately eight years ago, the local board that governed the district was dissolved and the Commission became the board.

Commissions asked the Mexican Hat community to reestablish a board or an advisory committee and help develop options of how the county can be of assistance.

In other matters at the February 4 Commission meeting, Burton Black, Allan Barry, Gail Johnson, and Doug Allen were each appointed to a third term on the San Juan Health Service Board. The reappointments required a resolution by the Commission since the service district initially restricted board members to two terms.

County Administrator Rick Bailey explained the board members were willing to serve another term and added, “Finding people willing to serve is at times difficult.”

Commissioners appointed Lee Bennett to serve on the San Juan County Library Board.

Commissioners approved a request by the Hole in the Rock Foundation to seek a $8,000 state history grant for work on the Kumen Jones home in Bluff.

The home is on the National Registry. The Hole in the Rock Foundation will provide a matching grant to the state funding.

A project to explore economic development options on the Navajo Reservation was outlined by William Guevara, Director of programs at First Nations Oweesta Corporation

The group is partnering with American Express in a goal to expand Community Development Financial Institutions.
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