On January 24, the Blanding City Council unanimously approved a press release expressing continued opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument and requesting a repeal of the monument.
The press release, which can be read in full on page 5, demands that the federal agencies follow local planning initiatives as required by their own laws and repeal the designation.
It also states that the massive area encompassed by the monument is pristine and beautiful because of the residents that live in this area, not because of government management.
The City Council agreed that the press release had three main points: 1- restate opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument, 2 - request a repeal on the monument, and 3 - get rid or ahead of the “we hate tourism” narrative.
The press release ends with a short paragraph ensuring everyone that visitors have always been and will still be welcome in the area. It also praises the values, heritage, and local recreation of the local community, noting “no one loves this land more than those who choose to call it home.”
Councilman Joe B Lyman reminded all in attendance that being against the monument does not define as being against tourism. He expressed a concern to remember to support friends and neighbors who have tourism-based jobs and businesses, similar to the support for area cattleman.
At a January 10 council meeting, there was strong citizen support for the third point. However, there was an uproar in the opposite direction this week.
Stewards of San Juan, a local group that, in their own words, is “vested with the responsibility of reviewing and taking action on matters of local concern” sent Treasurer Wendy Black to read a statement asking that the City Council halt any press release that shows anything but opposition to the newly designated monument.
Black made it clear in opening forum that the ending paragraph of the press release is not “in conjunction” to the letters from the Stewards of San Juan and asked that it be removed.
Despite a larger than normal crowd, no one else stood to speak regarding the press release in opening forum. There are two forums during a city council meeting, one to start the meeting and one to end it.
It is common practice that, unless there are specific items on the agenda, the public uses one of these two times to express opinions or give statements.
City Councilman Robert Ogle read the revised press release to the council acknowledging the changes made from the January 10 meeting. Those changes include eliminating language that suggests every single citizen is against the monument and adding, per a request from several residents, a short statement expressing the hospitality and community feel of Blanding.
The press release was then unanimously passed with only a few words changed.
In the closing forum, two more Blanding residents and two residents of McCracken Mesa joined Wendy Black to ask the city council to withdraw the press release.
Nicole Perkins asked the city to “hold off for 100 days” and give the Stewards of San Juan a chance to try and repeal the monument, stating that the council did not allow for comments from the citizens in the room before making a decision.
Perkins added that she “[does] not believe that one person in this room or who has served with Steward of San Juan County … not one of us is anti-tourist.”
She expressed frustration that she was not aware that a decision would be made that day and said the press release “feels like a slap in the face to every person in here”.
The other statements mirrored Perkins, requesting the removal of the last paragraph as they all believed that the last sentence is what you remember the most.
She said the last sentence appears to be “rolling out the red carpet” which again, is not in conjunction with Stewards of San Juan.
The emotion and persistence remained to the end of the meeting, when Mayor Calvin Balch asked the last speaker to stick to the five minute time limit or be removed from council.
As the room settled, the council honored its decision, and the press release was not changed.
In other council items, Lavern Tate asked the city for funds to help get started on the bi-annual 2017 Blue Mountain Shadows.
Tate explained the importance of the periodical and the history that it holds. The council agreed that Blue Mountain Shadows is a wonderful historical document for the community.
While denying the request to help pay for the work, they suggested adding flyers with the monthly utility bills to spread the word to Blanding residents and give the opportunity to help continue the magazine.
The city council also approved the ten-year project plan. It includes replacing the playground equipment at Centennial Park and replacing the gas line odorizer in 2018.
The city is also working on paving trails looping the Third and Fourth reservoirs. Councilman Ogle requested a master plan of the trails before the projects start.
The indoor pool for the Wellness Center was mentioned as a possibility for a 20-year plan but is not in the ten-year project plan.
A Sewer System Management Plan was also approved.