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Front Page » October 29, 2002 » Local News » Monument in the Balance
Published 5,227 days ago

Monument in the Balance

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Governor Leavitt visits Emery County as vote on monument draws near

Heated discussions on the monument concept continue as those for and against County Initiative 1 attempt to sway voters

Governor Michael O. Leavitt met with Emery County Commissioners Drew Sitterud, Ira Hatch and Randy Johnson as well as those from the ATV community in Huntington on Wednesday.

The Southeastern Utah OHV Club, Castle Country Alliance, Utah Shared Access and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife were all represented.

Stan Parrish was the moderator for the discussion. He said those present represented large groups of users of the Swell area and to treat each other with respect. "Everyone shares a common interest, they enjoy the beauty and the recreational opportunities of the Swell and all share a common interest in developing a process for the use of public lands. Governor Leavitt shares the value, President Bush shares the vision. As part of the process, Governor Leavitt sees the opportunity to change the model for development of these processes. The stars are lined up favorably to develop a model and set a precedence for this and future presidents in the developing of public policy for public lands.

Parrish suggested taking a look at the process before it is preempted by a possible no vote on Nov. 5. "Everyone shares the same goals for the Swell. There have been mistakes and myths, but hindsight is 20-20. All the moving parts and entities are concerned about the Swell. Sure, mistakes have been made and misunderstandings were not intentional. If we had it to do over again, maybe some things would have been done differently. The point is it was not intentional. We don't want to point blame, but work together and move forward. Access, recreational activities, all focus toward the same end.....we're here to express views and develop clear understanding.

"There is no written proclamation. We've talked to the department of the interior and there is no draft and it won't happen until we go through the process to develop a plan. No proclamation, no definite acreage has been determined this would be determined as part of a proclamation. On Nov. 5 the people of Emery County will vote on Initiative 1, if they vote no, the county commission will not pursue, the governor will not pursue and the president will not pursue. There will be no one to negotiate with on Nov. 6 and that's how they view it.

"We can move forward in positive action or defeat and move forward with the BLM. There are a lot of users and concerns. We have the opportunity to be involved in the process of what a monument should look like; we collectively have that opportunity. Also to change and create a new model for public policy. Let's put the past behind us and focus on where we'll be tomorrow and move forward collectively," said Parrish.

Parrish outlined the meeting with Governor Leavitt speaking next and Commissioner Johnson with the meeting being opened for questions after that.

Governor Leavitt said, "We lived through the creation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and I was as intimately involved as anyone. I received a phone call from Bill Clinton at 2 a.m. on the day they were going to designate it. That was one of the low points in my administration. It was deceitful, distasteful and hurtful. We lived with the aftermath of the management plan. It was a bad experience. Why is this a good idea? The San Rafael is destined at some point in time to have some action taken."

Governor Leavitt went on to explain that we have the right president and secretary of the interior in place who are interested in what the county thinks. The BLM transportation plan will define access with or without a monument. Governor Leavitt likes the idea of being able to define the process for a monument and to do it right. He wants everyone at the table in the process. He pointed out that no decisions have been made, no proclamation written and no monument plan in place. "On behalf of the county commissioners and the public lands council, I asked President Bush to consider it, to take a look and initiate a process. That's where we're at. At some point something will happen on the Swell. This is a great process." Governor Leavitt also pointed out that something could be created for the Swell under the cover of darkness by a Democratic pro-environmental president in the future.

In defining the process, Governor Leavitt also hoped that an executive order saying how the Antiquities Act would be used in the future could be part of the process. A process which includes local input and other ideas. A future president would also need an executive order to say no that's not how we're going to do things.

Governor Leavitt said a yes vote would result in his pursuing the process with all of his energy and would create an opportunity to do it right and preserve access. If the vote is no, then he has no interest in pursuing it any further and would withdraw, if that happens he predicted it would be at least a generation before anyone else will try and in that time someone else with a badge of power will do it. The question is do we want to go through the process. We could do the process right. The environmentalists are pushing and pulling on both sides. There is a certainty now...or we can trust what might happen. Even if we go through the process there is no guarantee of a monument, but why kill it in its infancy before it gets a chance to play out. We've never had the discussion on acreage and access. I hope we don't miss an opportunity, said Governor Leavitt.

Commissioner Johnson said one of the reasons they have been willing to take their stripes on this issue is because it is historic. "We have a great governor and president who said you design this and tell us what you want it to look like. The president is not impacted by this........the governor feels it is an historic grass roots effort. I'll be the first to admit that we've made some mistakes. We've done the best we knew how. We've come up with a draft document which explains the local parameters and requirements for the county support of a national monument designation. Part of the information that goes to the president will be suggested language and parameters gained from public input from meetings.

"We are not legally bound by the vote on Nov. 5, but we are ethically bound. A no vote would mean that Emery County is out of the public land business. We've worked on the cutting edge to develop something legal and correct. We would no longer be in that new options.....we'd back out of the process. A yes vote does not guarantee a monument. If the president and the governor are comfortable...the council on environmental quality will help suggest language. We could establish a precedence that could stand for generations to come. The president values the grass roots effort," said Johnson.

Commissioner Johnson pointed out the public support for the 1998 legislation that didn't make it through Congress. The commission decided why not use the president to accomplish the same thing....which sums up why we're pursuing looking at a monument. There is no preset language.

Commissioner Johnson said, "I have been back in the halls of Congress and I've seen what happens back there and their image of us and our public lands. Somebody will do something. Clinton was interested in the Swell but after the GSENM he didn't force it anymore. It is a high profile target for the next Democratic president. Do we have a hand in it or do we not....that's why we've stayed. We value every opinion."

Commissioner Sitterud said he would like to see the process go on. "We need to get to that point and then we can say yes or no."

Those at the meeting asked questions of the governor and the commissioners. One participant wanted to know if the ground breaking work would effect how the Antiquities Act is used in the future. The Governor said he would like to see an executive order in how a future president deals with the Antiquities Act.

FLEPMA was mentioned as a management tool for dealing with public lands.

The Antiquities Act does not have a process for the management of monuments this is done case by case.

Paul Conover wondered if the monument doesn't go forward then why isn't the governor interested in working this out.

The Governor said he thought they would be wasting time and resources. He was under the impression that this was a local effort and a vote against would mean he had misread the situation. He said he would always be available to help and has dealt with public lands issues for the last 10 years with Congress and presidents. The environmentalists have worked against us on roads and access. No one has stepped up with an alternative....I see this as the best alternative.

Conover said, "We'll just keep doing the best we can."

Commissioner Johnson said, "We will still work on the day to day public lands issues, but will not be advocates for new ideas. We will work strictly through the public lands council.

Conover said it was his understanding that the commission would hesitate to get involved in an alternative process.

Commissioner Hatch said they are involved in a alternative process and trying to put forth that process and accomplish it if they can. (monument)

Parrish suggested that all the data on the monument be collected and the process could outline use and acrerage and then take a look and see what we have.........the timing of the initiative on Nov. 5 is not good. He described the initiative as a speed bump.

Governor Leavitt said he doesn't understand how anyone can say they don't like it before anything has been proposed.

Mark H. Williams, president of the Southeastern Utah OHV Club, wondered if the county voted down the initiative, if on Nov. 6 they could start over from ground zero and state that we don't want 621,000 acres and start new and start the process right.

Commissioner Johnson said in order to do that we would have to redefine the word no. We cannot sit down and start from scratch.

Governor Mike Leavitt discusses the monument concept with James Gilson.

Williams said the vote is against the 621,000 acres not against a monument per se, but they needed to put something down on the initiative.

Parrish added that it didn't sound like they were opposed to the process, but were just hung up on a language concern about acreage. Beyond the acreage they are all on the same page.

Williams said he believes what they are trying to do is illegal and they should try to protect with the smallest acreage possible.

Dennis Worwood, chairman of the Emery County Public Lands Council said that the courts and Congress have determined that it is not illegal. Right after the Antiquities Act was established Teddy Roosevelt used it to create the Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908. The courts have never overturned that designation or many others like it. He also said a conservation area takes in considerable size and that heritage areas use significantly smaller acreage. In eliminating options for other groups bigger is better.

Glen Sumwalt said there has been a lot of water and time under the bridge before these groups were at the table and part of the discussion. He said one common concern is that they are going to loose historical uses.

Parrish pointed out that the initiative is the defining point. There was some discussion on where the number 621,000 came from and some fingerpointing. He said the acreage should not be an issue and it doesn't have to be. Move it down the line to see what the proposal might look like before you kill it.

Bruce Steadman said to let the people have a say and input.....make a promise that they are going to be at the table.....and definitely have a say in that process. I don't think through Doctor Allred's process that we're being heard. Is there a way you can have a say?

Wes Curtis said the vote actually means whether you start the process or not. In the minds of the voters they are voting for or against a monument. You can't start over again and redefine and restructure. A yes vote would mean we can move forward to define a process a no vote kills the process. The 621,000 acres is not set in stone and simply defined the outcrop of the Swell.

Sumwalt said they had hoped to be part of the process and the initiative at least forced the meeting today with the governor.

The governor said he could support an initiative so the county could say do or don't after a proposal had been defined.

Williams stated that the way they learned about the monument proposal made them mad. With a Saturday meeting and then a surprise announcement on Monday in the state of the state address by the governor made them angry.

Parrish said the initiative has been a success in the regard that all parties are here and being heard. You have been successful in what you've set out to do. Give the process a fair chance before we preempt it.

Steadman said we need to get all voices heard and then after the proposal is finished to give them (voters) the chance to say yes or no.

One man pointed out that he felt a monument would restrict access and multiple use and pointed out the GSENM language did include access. He also said once a monument designation is made what guarantee do we have it won't go from a National Monument to a National Park or wilderness. That is why I have concerns. I think a better way is to vigorously pursue RS-2477 rights and that will forestall actions and the useage will be acknowledged as right of ways.

The governor responded that they are within striking distance of significant progress on RS-2477 right of ways. Utah has the first statewide initiative on RS-2477. There is value in looking beyond Nov. 5 and if the initiative fails, what do we know is going to happen? The BLM access plan will go forth, they'll make the decisions as well as FLPMA.

Brian Hawthorne pointed out that under the BLM and when federal courts make decisions that there has been a clear decisive erosion of access over time. BLM plans don't add access they diminish it.

It was also pointed out the RS-2477 rights are one of the few statutory protections for access.

The governor pointed out that a monument would not change any of that and that the state will make significant progress on RS-2477 roads in the next six-eight months.

Conover said a monument management plan had a better shot at maintaining traditional values. The governor pointed out that they would be at the table in a monument planning process and they are not at the table in the BLM process.

Commissioner Hatch said the county is still in the RS-2477 process and once its defined that will be the best we can do. No one knows what the BLM plan is, it is moving ahead quickly. We are moving on the RS-2477 and if the BLM plan is in conflict we will still have RS-2477 access.

Worwood said RS-2477 is the wild card whether we have a monument or not. We'd like to give the motorized community the chance to solve problems and abuse. Maybe shared access where certain months there would be certain areas you couldn't go into so those seeking solitude could do so without the sound of an ATV. Creative uses might develop as part of a plan.

Hawthorne suggested the months of July and August for the environmental community.

Worwood mentioned the whole basis for the GSENM was to stop a coal mine in that area and that Andalex had legal rights to mine there.

Hawthorne commented that he is disappointed with the commissioners.......our way or the highway response and their wanting to pack up and go home.

Governor Leavitt responded that we have common goals and common enemies and need to work together. We need to agree on a public process and get that defined first. I think the cart is before the horse with this initiative.

Hawthorne pointed out that the public perception is 621,000 acres regardless of how it came about. With the proposal for a process we feel we are boxed into a corner to support it. We have ideas and see opportunities. Our fundamental disagreement with a monument is that it can't do all you want it to do. The consensus with our group is this is the wrong way to go about it.

Williams said neither side wants to be defeated and he hoped they could all come out of the election without being beat down.

Governor Leavitt said if Brian has ideas then they are willing to listen, but if the citizens say no then we can't define to the administration that they didn't mean no....they just wanted to start over. We've never defined my way it's been our way and quite honestly if you wanted to kill the monument you have done a technically smart thing. In my heart, we can't start over in context, other people oppose this for different reasons than you do for extremely different reasons. Those dynamics have not played out yet, because the environmentalists feel that you're handling it. I guarantee a fair process. I won't carry anything to the president that's not a balanced approach. Whether we win, lose or get runover I can guarantee that it will be a generation before you see this opportunity again....and we'll reflect back and say that was the best opportunity we had. We believe no is no if that's what the people want.

It was mentioned if Congressman Jim Hansen were there he would tell the people not to let this opportunity pass because you're never going to see a day like this again. Congressman Hansen was unable to attend the meeting due to prior commitments.

James Gilson said he believes everyone should be involved in writing a plan, who better to write a plan than those who have taken care of the land. Historical use guarantees that there will be no less use tomorrow than yesterday and we can write it how we want.

Commissioner Johnson pointed out that that has been the goal from the get go and they want all groups to suggest language. The president is only involved because he values grass roots efforts. The governor and the president won't sign off on a process that excludes interests.

The governor pointed out that with a balanced proposal there will be certain things that you won't like and others won't like but it will be balanced. Regardless of whether or not we have a monument, we're going to have something. It can exclude everyone like the GSENM or it can include everyone in a process as opposed to raw political power.....with Washington you never get what you want specifically.

Rich McKeown the governor's chief of staff described the meeting they were having as the oddest meeting he'd ever attended. The objectives are indistinguishable, you seem to agree on everything but the initiative.

The governor described the Initiative I as asking the people to buy a 621,000 square foot house without ever seeing a floor plan or without a nail being hammered. How can they vote in advance without knowing what it will look like?

The various groups were asked if they could support the initiative. Most were noncommittal saying they would need to discuss it with their membership and could not speak for everyone.

Williams said these things should of been talked about before.

Steadman said he sits on a committee in Tooele County and at first they talked about opposing wilderness when it was 1.2 million acres and now it is 9.6 million acres and getting larger all the time. They have been adamant in their opposition to wilderness. He felt it was a break through to be at the table with the governor. He said he had sent money down to Mark Williams to help defeat the monument and now seemed to regret the move.

Commissioner Johnson said the parameters of a monument would be built with discussion from a lot of parties. He said he has always supported a vote, but just after a defined product has been built.

Worwood said he thinks most voters think they are voting yes or no on a monument and he hopes we don't look back and say we passed up an opportunity.

Parrish questioned all those present as to whether they felt they could support the initiative or not.

Gilson said their group hasn't come out to support or oppose the issue. If someone is going to do this, I'd like it to be me and not depend on the future. I don't like the track record of what's been done in other areas. I can't make an official statement for other sportsmen and we haven't visited the issue as a board but I will contact them by phone and get back to you.

Williams said his group couldn't support it the way it was designed and put out.

Zumwalt said he would let the people in Emery County tell them what to do.

Conover and Tory Killian said they would like to meet with the commissioners and outline what their terms of support would consist of. They would also meet with their members and get back to the commission.

Parrish said that all those present were his heroes as they volunteer and do wonderful things for the county. Everyone's concerns are respected...we don't always agree but we do respect views and now we move forward.

Governor Leavitt said that he valued this time they had spent and felt it was helpful to have this conversation. The people of Emery County will make the decision and I'll respect that. A proposal will be framed with accuracy. A decision should be based on what's real. He asked that voters consider the process and when a clear proposal is brought forth have another referendum to vote on it. "It's illogical to vote before there is a proposal," said Governor Leavitt.

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