The letter, dated February 26, 2015, is in response to a city resolution from November 25, 2014 addressing the BLM closure of Recapture Canyon and the Recapture Canyon Protest held on May 10, 2014.
Palma, who has since retired as state director of the BLM, writes that he hopes that the city would “reconsider your position regarding Recapture Canyon.” In the resolution, the Council denounces what they call the arbitrary closure of Recapture Canyon, the handling of the protest, and calls for an immediate reopening of the Recapture Canyon route.
Palma states, “The Resolution contains some factual inaccuracies and misapprehends Federal law.”
Palma adds that the BLM properly closed the canyon and that the closure would remain in place “until the adverse impacts that led to the closure are ameliorated and measures are in place to prevent recurrence.”
The closure was instituted in 2007 and restricts vehicle access in the closed area.
Palma adds that the BLM has documented the cultural and other resource damage that was caused by the protest. He said the BLM “has a duty to consider whether to pursue civil or administrative action to remediate the damage that occurred. BLM has not made any final decisions in that regard.” He added that this would be independent of the current criminal prosecutions that are a result of the protest ride.
Palma adds that the BLM is considering a request submitted by San Juan County for a right-of-way in the canyon. He said the BLM hopes to release an assessment on the request “in the very near future.”
The letter was entered into the record of the meeting. A full copy of the letter, along with the Blanding City Resolution, can be found at the San Juan Record website at www.sjrnews.com .
In other matters at the March 24 council meeting, Asa Bradford, representing the National Honor Society at San Juan High School, came before the council to request funding for the annual Community Easter Egg Hunt. He requested $450, stating they were unable to purchase enough eggs with the $300 budgeted last year. The egg hunt is held at the Swallows Nest City Park adjacent to the visitor’s center. The expenditure was approved by the Council.
Edward Larson, from the Utah State University Eastern Campus in Blanding who came to notify the city of the upcoming STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) event. The STEM acronym is widely used in the education world, but the campus decided to add Art to the equation.
Local artisans will participate, along with the chemistry department at the college. There will be many hands-on activities, which they feel will interest children. The STEAM Expo will be held on Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11. School tours will take most of the day on Friday. The public is encouraged to attend and enjoy the diversity available locally.
The city is including a flyer with the utility bills and has also put information about the event on the city Facebook page. Larson said there should be something interesting for everyone in the area.
Several city departments reported items to the council as part of an ongoing process. The natural gas, water, police, fire, recreation and financial departments reported at the March 24 meeting.
Of special interest is the water department report because of the length and severity of the continuing drought conditions in the area.
The police department report shows crime to be down by 15.6 percent year to date.
Also interesting is the fact that the highest number of events reported as occurring is training by the fire department. Council members said the City of Blanding is proud of the high level of expertise of the fire department personnel, especially since it is a volunteer group.
The council discussed water rates and added that with continued drought conditions, the discussion will continue because rates are felt to be the only way to get some people to conserve water. Restrictions by city officials are considered to be very difficult to enforce.