County Plans Monument Meetings
The monument issue will be put on the Nov. 5 ballot. Between now and then the Emery County Commission will participate in informational meetings as well as provide information for a voter information booklet to be sent to all voters prior to the election.
Commissioner Randy Johnson said, "The Emery County Public Lands Council and the commission have been involved for a long time in the public process to do something appropriate for the San Rafael Swell. The Heritage Area and the National Conservation Area was the best proposal to ever come out of anywhere, nationwide. At one point Congressman Jim Hansen said the National Conservation Area with a Heritage Area overlay was the greatest proposal ever brought forth.
"He said it was a practical proposal for public land management. It has been a grass roots effort. We didn't have the political clout to get our legislation passed. The environmental movement thwarted our proposal and kept it from passing. Other states patterned their conservation area legislation after ours and were successful in getting it passed.
"We are in a dilemma, we could forget the work we've done and just wait and see what happens; Congressman Hansen has worked with us on the wilderness issue. He is the chair of the House Resources Committee and he'll be gone. He has been dominant in being able to control what's been done. The picture will change depending on whether a democrat or a republican chairs that committee. But, whoever chairs the committee, they will not have the same understanding that Congressman Hansen does of the public lands in Utah.
"We could let the good work we've done go to waste, or we can fight the wilderness proposals that would take over half of our county; what is our future if we give up?
"We thought there was perhaps another way, with President Bush we thought there was a friend in the White House who was receptive of what we've done. He could use his power to do the same basic thing that we tried to do with the national conservation area that Congress failed to pass. President Bush cannot pass legislation only Congress can do that. The only administrative power he can use is the Antiquities Act.
"We have only asked President Bush to consider creating a monument based on the exact ideas of a national conservation/national heritage area. The president is considering this based on an understanding of the whole purpose, nothing more or nothing less. One of the problems is with the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the way President Clinton used the Antiquities Act. It tainted the process and made people suspicious. As soon as the governor announced the monument idea there was an instant suspicion. It will take a lot to overcome the myths; first those saying it's a done deal. It is far from a done deal. Another prominent myth is that no matter what happens the president will declare it a monument. It is not a done deal.
"I have met in Washington with the head of the council on environmental quality and we talked about the monument; where the White House is, and what they expect; they are very in tune with what we've been doing and are sensitive to the access issue. We've been assured that the president will not act on a monument if the Emery County Commission and the people are not comfortable with it. The chief advisor's words were, 'The president won't act unless it's what we want.' The point is the White House is not going to do anything if the people are not comfortable with it.
"The immediate assumption was that the monument would close all the roads and that is false as well. The Bureau of Land Management will define what is open with or without a monument. The monument would be a historical monument, all historical uses such as ranching, farming, grazing, pioneer, outlaw history would be preserved as part of a living museum. People need access, there is no point in creating a monument to celebrate the history of the San Rafael and then not letting them see it. That is ridiculous. We want to provide good and appropriate access as has been done in the past. Shutting down roads is not part of the thinking.
"We think the best way to fight the environmentalists is to come up with better ideas; something besides wilderness. This is the best way to show that wilderness is just one small tool. We want to propose other ways to go. The people in the east think it is wilderness or degradation with nothing in between. The best thing to do is let them see that we are good people doing good things on the land and it is not as cut and dried as they think.
"We are not anti-wilderness, we are anti-one-size-fits all. Multiple use does not mean all uses in all areas. I am all for multiple uses, not for one use. Wilderness advocates are for one use. Wilderness is no management. They want nothing to happen. The wilderness study areas in Emery County are so large that you couldn't carry enough water with you to get across them if you were hiking. Our area is misunderstood by Congress. That has been part of the problem in dealing with them. They don't have a grasp of the size and expanse of the San Rafael Swell. They don't understand the impacts of having I-70 bisect the Swell. They don't understand the public lands. We spend a lot of resources retrieving and rescuing those who don't understand this area. There is a real gap in understanding between the people who live here and those back east who have never been here before.
"One of the benefits of a monument would be that we would have a say in the management and the ongoing management of our area. If this is left to the devices of other people it might not be to our liking. We are worried if we do nothing that we might not like or be able to have a say in how management is applied. It's worth a lot to have local input. A monument is a good idea because Emery County does need to diversify, we don't benefit from the tourists visiting our area now. With a monument combined with a heritage area we would be able to guide tourists where we want them and we would benefit from them. They could stay and enjoy the area and communities and spend some money. With wilderness, the tourists would not go into the communities.
"A monument would be beneficial because the San Rafael is special and unique in the world. It is a unique blend of man and nature. We want to protect the interests. It could be a living museum where everyone has a place to honor their forefathers example and heritage in such a way that it becomes formal and permanent. The Swell is unique enough that it ought to have some recognition. If we design what the monument would look like it would have more of the characteristics we want. Emery County is writing the draft language and declaration. In that document we will have input and set a pattern for development of management. Emery County will be on the management team and involved in the ongoing management.
"People have voiced their concern that we would lose control, if the Swell became a monument. After President Clinton designated the GSENM, the Utah Associations of Counties filed a lawsuit against it and it has not changed, the legal efforts have not altered the monument. Even if we have an environmental president, changing what the previous president did is not going to happen. Maybe there might be a different focus by the BLM on where it's going and our member of the management team would have input in that.
"To say we would lose control would mean that we have control of the Swell and we don't have control. It is operating under the BLM resource management plan. What control are we going to lose? If we had control we would of had a national conservation area a long time ago. There are problems with grazing that have existed and will exist whether we have a monument or not. People are blaming the GSENM for their problems with grazing and they had problems before with new regulations. It is our intent to protect grazing.
"A monument doesn't bring money with it. It brings increased enforcement and education. That is why the heritage area is so important. The monument and heritage area would become a partnership to protect the land. The heritage area deals with people to enhance the infrastructure and build facilities and preserve areas and brings funding with it.
"Banks are unwilling to invest in rural Utah and with a monument we hope we could get some backing. The backing we need to see those kind of things in place. The heritage area will help get those. We will build facilities to capitalize on these areas. We will be able to guide people here in a more defined manner and benefit from the whole philosophy.
"We want to give people in the county a good clear picture of the options before the vote in November. We want to pull away from the rhetoric of the extremes and get down to what a monument does and what it cannot do. We are not afraid of the vote. We are happy to see it. We want good information to be presented not misinformation. One of the things most important to Pres. Bush was a mandate to the BLM to get a feel for what the public wants and to get good information and evaluate all sides and purposes. We want the voters to make a decision to pursue the monument or not based on good information. We are partnering with the BLM in doing their job. We are helping them get the information on the resources, the heritage and the people of the area. This assignment has been given to Sally Wisely, state director of the BLM. We are full partners with them. We have plans for an extensive poll which will ask comprehensive questions. Keith Allred from Harvard is also working gathering information. The BLM will also answer questions and take input on their website.
"Information about other BLM monuments will also be provided. Across the board comparisons will be made. All monuments are not the GSENM. They will show how management differs from monument to monument and do a comparison. All of the monuments will be listed with the different types of uses that are in place in each one so the people can get an overall view of the monument issue. We will do some public service meetings and meet with the media to discuss monuments in general. We will be doing that with the BLM and we will also have our own meetings with various interest groups on the proposed language. We will take input from the public meetings and give out good information. We may do an information pamphlet. We want to pull the people away from the fear that was created with the GSENM and have them look at the monument system as a whole.
"Emery County will begin meeting with people in late July or in August. The BLM will meet with people in early fall with a symposium being planned for September. There is a lot of information to be brought forth. If the voters vote the issue down then the Emery County Commissioners could not endorse the monument. We would have no other choice. If the people vote in favor, then we wouldn't do much different; just continue gathering information. A positive vote does not guarantee a monument, the decision still lies with the president in deciding if he wants to use the Antiquities Act. It is our intent to have public input, it is important to the president and to us," said Commissioner Johnson.