San Juan County Commission talks Sage grouse, tax sales, visitor services

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan County Commission talked about sage grouse, tax sales, and visitor services at their latest meeting.
At their September 6 meeting, the San Juan County commission accepted an invitation to participate as a cooperating agency with the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Plan Amendments for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse.
County Public Lands Coordinator Nick Sandberg explained that the county had participated as a cooperating agency for the resource management plan for the bird from 2014-2016.
“That effort was put on hold awaiting the completion of a recovery plan for the grouse that was completed by the fish and wildlife service in 2020.”
With the BLM back to working on the resource management plan the county has been invited once again to participate as a cooperating agency.
As a cooperating agency the county will weigh in on the resource plan including providing information, comments, and technical expertise to the BLM. Sandberg reports the process is scheduled to be complete by late Spring or early Summer of 2024.
Sandberg explained the Gunnison Sage-grouse is a sub-species of sage-grouse only found in Colorado and in southeastern Utah.
“The Southeastern Utah population may be zero for all I know. It’s been declining rapidly with drought and other factors over the past several years, but there still is a core sage grouse population around Gunnison Colorado, and the Gunnison basin. And then some satellite populations through western colorado as well as ours here in San Juan County.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams signaled his support for participating in amendments to the plan.
“We have a significant amount of land, and the majority of it I believe is in our private property portion of our county. So I think it’s very very significant that we have a presence there.”
Sandberg confirmed a large amount of the land under consideration in San Juan County is privately owned.
“I think 96-percent of the critical designated habitat for Gunnison Sage Grouse is private land. And there’s maybe 4,000 acres or so of BLM lands, there’s nearly 150,000 acre block Northeast of Monticello.”
Sandberg added that much of the BLM lands mentioned have been selected by the state of Utah for exchange as part of the proposed State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration’s (SITLA) and Bears Ears land swap.Commissioner Willie Grayeyes questioned the utility of the birds.
“Seems like the ranchers are being nailed with killing all these eggs and stuff like that because the cattle tramps over them. I don’t know, if that’s not good for eating, why put up an argument for it?”
Grayeyes and Adams voted in favor of entering in as a cooperating agency with the BLM, commissioner Kenneth Maryboy was not present at the meeting.
The commission also updated their process and procedures regarding the annual tax sale at their latest meeting.
A tax sale is a public auction of property that has been delinquent on tax payments for five years.
At the meeting county clerk/auditor Lyman Duncan presented the document which was the work of the county attorney’s office.
Adams said instances of a tax sale are unfortunate.
“I know there’s a lot of consternation when somebody gets their property seized by the government “
Adams added the document was important for the county to be thorough and complete in that process.
“People just refuse to pay their taxes, I guess that’s the only out that we have. If you’re not going to be a taxpayer then we’ll find someone that will pay the taxes and sell it to them.”
Also at the September 6 meeting members of the commission approved two items for the Economic Development and Visitor Services Office.
Office director Elaine Gizler asked the commission to approve the county contract with Capture Adventure Media to provide an annual video production service through 2024.
Gizler explained the county has worked with the group over the past five years to create video content. Adding that the owner Gilbert Rowley, who is from San Juan County, has been an asset to production.
“He knows the area really well. He’s not someone we have to explain everything to him hoping he’ll capture the right moment or energy for a particular film he knows San Juan County.”
Gizler explains content created has been used on the county website and part of the San Juan Strong promotion the county started at the beginning of the pandemic.
In a next series of videos the county would like to showcase northern San Juan County including promoting the Abajo Mountains as well as camping and trail offerings.
The $20,000 contract is already written into the economic development and visitor services office budget, with the state office of tourism providing some of the funds.
At the meeting the commission also approved a notice of award to Earthdiver LLC for the development and creation of content for a San Juan County Trails and Camping website.
County Administrator Mack McDonald explained the county received five responses to a request for proposal, with the county intending to work with Earthdiver LLC at just shy of $7,000 for the project, with the potential of additional add-ons. The project was also in the visitor services budget.

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