by Bill Boyle
Citizens in Bluff will vote in coming weeks on a proposal to incorporate the area into the third municipality in San Juan County.
Several weeks ago, we published a schedule in which we promised to focus on the matter in the October 25 issue of the paper. However, this week we decided to jump the gun a little and run the story about the feasibility study.
We did this with the intention of getting important information in the hands of voters before the ballots are cast. Publishing the story this week gives more time for the details to be hashed out before the election.
Bluff being Bluff, I assume that some will accuse me of trying to influence the decision.
Of course, the decision is entirely in the hands of the voters. I hope that our coverage will help get important information to the voters as they make decisions.
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Hurry up and wait.
We are still anxiously awaiting an announcement regarding Bears Ears National Monument. When Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced in June that the boundaries of the 1.35-million acre monument would be adjusted, it was anticipated the change would take place sooner rather than later.
Now, more than four months later, no announcement has been made. Some wonder if an official announcement may be delayed until an action is made to decrease the boundaries of both the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments.
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We are also still waiting for a ruling by Seventh District Judge George Harmond regarding charges against San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge and two deputies.
A motion to dismiss the charges was filed at an August 25 preliminary hearing in Monticello. By September 15, both sides had submitted arguments on the motion. Now, more than one month later, Judge Harmond has yet to make his ruling.
Some believe the delay makes it increasingly likely that some, if not all, of the charges may be dismissed.
A preliminary hearing is generally rather perfunctory, with the judge facing a comparatively low burden of proof while making a decision of whether or not to move ahead with the process.
Sheriff Eldredge, along with deputies Alan Freestone and Rob Wilcox, face several charges filed by the office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
The lawmen are charged with retaliation against a witness, obstruction of justice, reckless endangerment and official misconduct related to interaction with former Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Bristol.
As I wrote when the charges were filed, “Make no mistake, the stakes in this case are very high.
“At many levels, this could mean only two things: 1– we have corruption in our law enforcement community, or 2– we have incompetence in the prosecutor’s office.
“Either scenario is unacceptable.”
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I had to shake my head at a story released this week by Men’s Journal magazine. They interviewed Morgan Sjogren, who, apparently, knows the Bears Ears better than anyone, living or dead! Wow!!
By the way, Sjogren first came to the area in February, 2017.
Read about it http://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/articles/meet-the-woman-who-knows-bears-ears-best-w508810.
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Another publication has released a fascinating story. This one has a bit more credibility than the Men’s Journal article.
Utah Historic Quarterly recently published “Closing the Road to Chesler Park: Why Access to Canyonlands National Park Remains Limited.”
Author Clyde Denis provides intriguing history into the creation of Canyonlands National Park in 1964.
Denis outlines the process by which the original plans to develop the new park into the “Yellowstone of Southeast Utah” turned into the mostly backcountry park it is today.
Key factors in the change include the high cost of fighting the Vietnam War and the emergence of environmentalism.
The initial plans for the park called for a bridge over Elephant Canyon and paved roads into the heart of the Needles District, including roads to the Confluence and into Chesler Park.
The plans also called for paving the road through Elk Ridge from Canyonlands to Natural Bridges National Monument.
Of course, fast forward 50 years and much of the park is in a primitive state. Instead of developing the park, as was promised when it was created, access into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park has been severely cut back.
Clyde Denis is a professor at the University of New Hampshire. He has spent a significant amount of time in San Juan County, where he returns every year to explore the canyonlands. He has stopped at the San Juan Record office a number of times to research various aspects of the area.