Public lands at the forefront in San Juan County at four public meetings
Oct 02, 2013 | 3028 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Public lands continue to draw attention in San Juan County. A series of public meetings in October will allow local residents to learn about several issues and make their voices heard.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has released an environmental assessment and an economic analysis of the Gunnision sage grouse proposals.

Pending a change due to a government shutdown, a meeting to address the studies is scheduled for October 8 at the Monticello High School auditorium.

The meeting will include an information session from 4 to 5 p.m. and a public hearing from 6 to 9 p.m.

A similar meeting will be held in Gunnison, CO on October 7.

Public comment on the studies will be accepted until October 19. It is expected that the US Fish and Wildlife Service will make a decision on designation by March 31, 2014.

The federal agency is considering the designation of the sage grouse as an endangered species and may designate thousands of acres of land as critical habitat.

An estimated 95 percent of the habitat is on private land and could severely impact use of the limited private land in San Juan County. About 92 percent of the land in San Juan County is owned and managed by governments.

At least two studies are underway on the economic analysis, which attempted to put a cost on the designation.

An economist from Utah State University is completing a review for the State of Utah, while the eleven counties impacted by the designation have hired a Colorado State University economist to complete a similar study.

San Juan County is one of the eleven counties potentially impacted by the designation, in addition to ten counties in Colorado.

It is anticipated that the analysis of the two studies will be available by the October 8 public meeting.

In addition to the Gunnison sage grouse proposal, Utah Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop are in the process of developing a public lands proposal for Congress.

A San Juan County effort to submit proposals for the bill has been delayed.

San Juan County Commissioners are planning a series of meetings later in the month to address a local proposal.

Reps Chaffetz and Bishop called on any interested organizations to participate in the development of a public lands bill and many organizations have responded. To date, approximately a dozen organizations have submitted proposals for the public lands bill.

While Grand, Emery and Uintah counties have developed and submitted proposals, the San Juan County proposal is still in the developmental stages.

The concept of the local meetings is that three separate meetings will be held, with one each in Monticello, Blanding and Bluff. The commissioner representing the area will conduct each meeting, i.e. Commissioner Bruce Adams in Monticello, Commissioner Phil Lyman in Blanding and Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy in Bluff.

Rep Bishop chairs a powerful public lands committee in Congress and suggests that he and Chaffetz may be able to shepherd a bill through Congress that would address key public lands issues in San Juan County.

The Congressmen state that if San Juan County does not participate in the process, the bill will not address public lands in the county.

A number of county residents have expressed concern about the bill. Rep Chaffetz told those at a meeting to kick off the project in August that doing nothing may be a dangerous route to take.

A number of organizations are pushing for a wide range of public land actions in San Juan County, including the designation of a national monument that would affect most of the public lands west of Highway 191 and north of Highway 95.
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