The future of public lands will be the focus of a series of meetings as San Juan County moves into the next phase in the process of creating a recommendation for the Bishop Public Lands Bill.
Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz are sponsoring a bill, which they hope may help settle some of the controversies regarding federal land. Many of the public land controversies have swirled in the area for decades.
A series of public meetings are planned in coming weeks to discuss some of the proposals submitted by various groups. Three recommendations generated by a San Juan County public lands council will have particular focus at the meeting.
Meetings will be held at Monument Valley High School on Monday, October 27; at the Blanding Arts and Events Center on October 28; at the Bluff Community Center on October 29; at the Aneth Chapter House on November 3; at Monticello High School on November 5; and at the La Sal Community Center on November 6. All meetings begin at 7 p.m.
The public lands council was made up of a cross-section of county residents. They met several times over the course of the year and completed a number of visits to areas of interest.
A number of county residents served as Land Council members, including Brent Johansen, Grayson Redd, Heidi Redd, Josh Ewing, Vaughn Hadenfeldt, Mark Maryboy, Shane Shumway, Marie Holiday, Shaye Holiday, Stefnee Turk, Steve Deeter, Todd Westcott, and Tim Chamberlain.
Commissioner Phil Lyman served as leader of the group. County employees John Fellmeth and Nick Sandberg attended as advisors and technical staff.
The three alternatives vary in the amount of public land that would be set aside for special designation.
The first alternative, which was a unanimous choice by all members of the Lands Council, calls for the designation of 505,823 acres of BLM ground for wilderness.
The wilderness land would include 219,507 acres of Cedar Mesa Wilderness, and portions of Mancos Mesa, Mikes Canyon, Steer Gulch, Mule Canyon, Dark Canyon, Butler Wash, Cross Canyon, Bridger Jack Mesa, Indian Creek and Behind the Rocks.
An additional 566,798 acres would be designated as National Conservation Areas (NCA) in the first alternative.
Two separate NCAs are recommended, including 468,832 acres on Cedar Mesa and 97,966 acres in Indian Creek.
In total, the Lands Council recommended a Wilderness or NCA designation for 1,072,621 acres of public land in San Juan County.
The second alternative, which was agreed by a majority of the Lands Council members, adds 20,930 acres to the Cedar Mesa NCA and 2,823 acres to the Indian Creek NCA.
The total acreage recommended for Wilderness or NCA designation in the second alternative is 1,096,374 acres.
The third alternative, which is supported by a few members of the Lands Council, added 54,749 acres of wilderness and 253,796 acres of NCAs, including 21,954 acres for a Beef Basin NCA.
This alternative recommends significant increases (223,895 acres) to the Cedar Mesa NCA. In total, the third alternative would designate more than one million acres of contiguous acres for protection in central San Juan County, stretching from Recapture Pocket to Glen Canyon.
The total acreage recommended for wilderness or NCA designation in the third alternative is 1,404,919 acres.
By comparison, the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument calls for the designation of 991,982 acres in San Juan County.
The Red Rock Wilderness Bill calls for the designation of 1,453,728 acres in San Juan County.
Maps outlining the recommendations are available at the meeting and the San Juan County website at sanjuancounty.org.