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Front Page » January 29, 2002 » Local News » Public Opinion on Monument Proposal Varies
Published 5,501 days ago

Public Opinion on Monument Proposal Varies

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Editor, Emery County Progress


The proposal for a national monument would encompass 621,000 acres of the Swell and the language of its management would harken back to the 1998 legislation that Emery County citizens agreed upon in a series of public meetings.

� The monument would be managed by the Bureau of Land Management, not the National Parks Service. There would be no federal reserve water right and the state of Utah would continue to manage and administer wildlife as if the monument did not exist. The monument would be wilderness neutral and wilderness study areas in the San Rafael would remain intact. Only Congress can designate wilderness areas.

� There would be established a monument advisory council with local representation. A monument management plan would be established within three years of its designation with local and state input.

� Wildlife in the monument would continue to be managed and administered as if the monument did not exist.

� There would be no federal reserve water right in the monument.

� The primary purpose of the monument would be to protect historic objects in the Swell.

� The monument would be visitor friendly and accessible and allow for multiple use.

� Boundaries of the monument would include the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.

� Travel in the monument would reflect the Bureau of Land Management Travel Plan for the San Rafael, which is expected to be released in February. In regards to roads and travel in the Swell, Commissioner Randy Johnson said: "There are only a few roads we differ philosophically with the BLM on and that can be taken care of administratively."

� In regards to grazing nothing in the proclamation would effect existing permits and the BLM would operate as if the monument did not exist as far as grazing was concerned.

� Funding for the management of the monument would come from the federal government with no increase in taxes or requirement for matching funds from the county.

� There would be no air quality standard change for the county with the establishment of a monument.

Public comments for the proposal will be accepted at it moves through the process.

The proposal to have the San Rafael Swell declared a national monument was met, for the most part, with cautious support by those who attended the Emery County Public Lands Council meeting on Saturday.

In detailing the events which had led the lands council to make such a proposal, Wes Curtis said that the council had gone forward on the premise that "you control your own destiny or someone else will."

After years of struggle to create a San Rafael National Conservation Area the county's attempts have only met with failure after continued battles with environmental groups who are well organized, financed and connected to those who make the decisions in Washington.

But with a friendly administration which is supportive of the proposal, county leaders tried to persuade local citizens that the national monument proposal might be the county's last, best hope for the San Rafael.

"This is a unique opportunity and something we will have to move on quickly or it will disappear, which is why we wanted to include the public as soon as possible so we can hear from you," Curtis said.

After detailing some of the specifics of the proposal, the lands council opened the floor for questions and comments. At the beginning of the meeting those in attendance were asked to sign in and let it be known if they wished to make comments. With an audience composed of ordinary citizens, ranchers and members of the off highway vehicle community, questions were many and varied.

The fact that the language of the proposal would mirror the language of the first bill proposed by the county in 1998 seemed to allay a great many concerns from the audience, while others were concerned that the proposal might be something other than it appeared.

"It looks like a sheep to me, but I worry that somewhere under there, there might be a wolf," said Bruce Funk during the public comment period of the meeting.

The input of consideration of public comments was an area of concern for many as well. If the proposal is to go forward there would be a 90 day comment period before any proclamation is made and, according to county leaders, if the comments were negative, the proposal would be stopped.

The greatest concern for many is that the monument would not stop any wilderness designations. Wilderness designations would still be a possibility because Congress, not the president, is the only governmental body which can designate wilderness.

"If you leave everything to chance I'm not sure I like our chances. The monument does not resolve wilderness issues, but it takes away the urgency," said Commissioner Ira Hatch.

Others voiced opposition to the proposal because they feared it would lock up the land from public access, a viewpoint the council and county commissioners did their best to dispel.

Even if the proposal is sent forward exactly as the county wanted, commissioners cautioned that things could change and if that were to happen the county would have the option to stop the monument proposal from moving forward.

"The president will not declare a monument unless Emery County says so. It will continue to come from the ground up," said Commissioner Randy Johnson.

That possibility for changing the language of the monument is what concerned some. "I just want it to be done exactly as we set it out," said James Gilson.

Still others were of the viewpoint that something needed to be done and after years of effort it was time to act.

"It's time we settled in on a program. We must face the fact that there are other people involved in the use of Emery County. We've tried everything else, let's do it," said Eugene Johansen.

During the meeting Governor Mike Leavitt said that whatever the county decides, he would support them. "In making this proposal we would be making a proactive statement to a problem. You are wise to go forward and if you choose to go forward I'll be with you," he said.

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