County will ask Biden to restore Bears Ears

The San Juan County Commission has signaled their intent to continue efforts to restore Bears Ears National Monument to its original size.

At the December 1 commission meeting, Commissioners Willie Grayeyes and Kenneth Maryboy voted to send a letter to President-elect Joe Biden asking his administration to make the restoration of Bears Ears a top priority. Commissioner Bruce Adams voted against sending the letter.

When the monument was created by President Barack Obama in 2016 it included 1.35 million acres of land in San Juan County. In 2017, President Donald Trump decreased the size of the monument to 201,876 acres, which is 15 percent of the original monument.

In the same meeting, the commission finalized a letter to the Utah Department of Water Quality (DWQ) asking they reject a Lisbon Valley Mine permit request to use in situ mining practices in northern San Juan County.

The letter also states the county stance against all in situ mining in San Juan County.

The County Commission also approved recommendations by the county economic development board to distribute $85,000 from the State of Utah Rural County Grant Program.

The funds will be used on projects that could contribute to the expansion and diversification of the county economy as identified by the board.

The board received 16 applications for the projects and approved five of the grant applications.

The largest piece of the $85,000 pie will go to Mountain West Medical Supply. The Blanding-based business will use the $30,000 grant to buy an oxygen generation machine.

Taylor Made was awarded $15,000 for a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. The high precision computer-controlled machine can be used to manufacture cabinets, headstones and other items.

Deeter Saddlery was awarded $15,000 for a new band knife splitter, a tool that can be used to cut leather and other softer materials.

Another $15,000 went to Brandt Services for an upgrade on their sawmill used in lumber production.

Finally, Blue Mountain Hospital was awarded $10,000 for a dialysis machine at the hospital.

Board Chairman Britt Barton shared the thinking behind the board decision.

“We want to try to commit these funds to businesses that have the potential to return jobs to the community and provide growth to the economy,” said Barton.

Barton said they had other deserving projects and businesses that they hope they can fund in the future.

Commissioner Grayeyes, who also serves on the county economic development board, is pleased with the projects selected.

“I like the criteria used. Health-related was a priority,” Grayeyes said. “As I understand part of the firms that were granted also serve the Navajo Nation, so inclusion is there for those areas.”

At the meeting, the commission also got an update on signage for a Class D county roads popular among Off-Highway Vehicle users.

The Strike Ravine Road is located in the northern part of San Juan County and runs through Area BFE which is a 320-acre private property that offers 15 trails for off-highway vehicles to recreate.

The private property is located a little less than three miles off Highway 191 on top of Blue Hill, at the south end of Spanish Valley.

In October, Area BFE asked the county to vacate the roads to give the private property full control of the area. Property owner Robert Lucero told the commission there are liability issues with people leaving the public road unprepared.

The commission denied the request to vacate the road in October, but at the December 1 meeting, County Road Director Todd Adair explained the county has received grant funding through the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation to install signage in the area.

The state granted $5,231 to buy signs and kiosks to keep the public off of private property in the area.

The county will provide the labor and equipment for the project. Local ATV groups have volunteered to also aid with labor, which will start sometime in early 2021.

The county also upgraded the classification of some roads in Spanish Valley.

Tangren Lane, Four Wheel Drive road, Wildflower Circle, and Velcar Court were all upgraded from Class D to Class B roads.

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