Concern over Greater Canyonlands monument proposal
Emery County, Utah's Public Lands Council opposes the designation of 1.4 million acres in Southeastern Utah as a Greater Canyonlands National Monument. In the letter addressed to your office in mid-November, the Outdoor Industry Association proposed such a designation and stated that it would pursue this course of action for the next four years.
It appears to us that OIA's desire to designate such a monument is simply doing the bidding of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. SUWA has the dubious honor of being known as the "uncompromising" wilderness advocacy organization that has tried for decades, and failed, to have millions of acres of federal land designated wilderness in Utah. The Greater Canyonlands designation is their latest strategy.
There is a better way to address special land designation in Utah. The Washington County legislation, included in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which you signed into law on March 30, 2009, was the first step. The Emery County Public Land Management Act is the next step. Over the course of nearly four years, with collaboration from scores of organizations, agencies, and individuals, the PLC crafted a land use bill which maintains current resource use while designating a significant number of acres as wilderness and National Conservation Area. In our potential legislation approximately 466,000 acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas which have been in limbo for three decades will be designated wilderness and managed for that quality. Additionally, approximately 18,600 acres of United States Forest Service Lands would be designated wilderness. These special designations would apply to 39 percent of the federal lands within Emery County, or 31 percent of the entire county.
SUWA disengaged from our process when we refused to consider tripling the number of acres for wilderness designation.
The potential Greater Canyonlands National Monument includes nearly 200,000 acres within Emery County. This area was inventoried and evaluated in the PLC's process. We concluded that most of these acres should continue to be managed under the current BLM Price Field Office Resource Management Plan. We recommend that about 28,000 acres in this part of the county be designated as wilderness.
In 2009, SUWA's Red Rock Wilderness Act was granted a hearing before the House of Representatives' Natural Resources Subcommittee where testimony after testimony pointed out those proposals by resource specific advocates didn't seem to be the way to address special designation of federal land in the west. The more inclusive, grass roots, multiple resource oriented strategy of the Washington County bill had indeed produced reasonable designation. The Greater Canyonlands designation is an old, failed strategy given a new name. We urge you to not support, or engage in this designation.