SUWA defends position to Commission
At the April 4 meeting of the San Juan County Commission, two attorneys from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) gave their justification for proposing that over a thousand miles of roads and ATV trails in the greater Canyonlands National Park area be closed by an action called the Greater Canyonlands Petition.
Liz Thomas and Neal Clark accused the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of not carefully examining the roads in previous agreements. As a result, SUWA has petitioned the BLM to go back and do a better job this time…which in the judgment of SUWA would mean closing 1,050 miles of the 2,500 miles of roads and trails that exist in a four-county area, but mostly in San Juan County. (See map).
When the SUWA presentation was completed, Bruce Adams, Chairman of the San Juan County Commission, responded:
“I am amazed and offended that the County Commissions of all the counties involved in this action found out about it by reading the Salt Lake papers. Would this not have been more palatable for local people if SUWA had given notification instead of completely blindsiding everyone?”
“It is offensive to the people who live in this area to have wealthy outsiders, many of whom have never been to San Juan County, hire attorneys to initiate expensive lawsuits to take away roads and access to places that have been open to the public for over a hundred years.
“This county has spent millions of dollars building thousands of miles of roads, and for you to just decide what we ought to do with our roads, without even talking to us about it, is unbelievable.
“What SUWA needs to do is change its image with local people by treating them with respect instead of trampling on their feelings and opinions, like has been done with this ‘Canyonlands Petition.’”
Commissioner Phil Lyman seconded Adams’ remarks and added that the Department of the Interior just did an end run around Congress with Secretary Salazar’s 3310 directive.
Lyman said that the spur-of-the-moment political decision by Salazar wreaked havoc in Utah over gas and oil leases that had already been approved by Congress. Lyman wondered if this is what the county is to expect from SUWA and other groups trying to shut down much of San Juan County?
Monticello resident Monte Wells said, “When it comes to SUWA, lying sounds a little harsh, but telling untruths is too kind. I question much what they have in their petition and more about what they say.”
In other Commission business:
• The road from Monticello to Monticello Lake and on to Harts Draw is now open and free of snow.
• 3.4 miles of road between Gouldings and Oljato will be resurfaced with $1.6 million in federal stimulus funds. Jones and Demille Engineering will be hired by the County to oversee the project.
• The county has been retained by the U.S. Forest Service to provide road building and maintenance services in the South Cottonwood area this year. The county will be reimbursed for $72,000 in expenses.
• Norman Johnson presented a list of delinquent properties that are five years old and will be sold at auction after being advertised for sale.
• Jenny Atcity was approved to join the County Library Board.
• Charlie Delorme, San Juan County Economic Development Director, reported his travel plans and requested $3,500 for personal expenses related to travel shows in San Francisco and Asia. The State will pay for the space rentals at these shows.