Local residents should seize land-planning opportunity
Nov 06, 2013 | 3313 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, US Congressman representing San Juan County 

Shaping land management policies in San Juan County should be a process driven by those who live here, not by bureaucrats in Washington, DC. 

San Juan County residents have a historic opportunity to join an effort that could bring resolution and finality to unsettled federal land management disputes within this county. 

Local officials in Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff; leaders of Diné Bikéyah; and various citizen organizations have launched this effort and I support it.

San Juan County residents have much to gain by seizing this opportunity and getting involved in the process.

Participation in the process could bring a variety of different benefits to the county. Among them, certainty, finality, local control, and economic opportunities.

Nearly 400,000 acres of federal land in San Juan County are tied up in temporary wilderness study areas. 

This process could resolve these study areas once and for all, bringing needed certainty and finality to off-roaders, energy developers, and conservation advocates. 

A locally-driven process would also quiet naysayers in Washington, D.C. who believe they know what’s best for San Juan County. 

The Obama Administration is advocating for the unilateral creation of national monuments at Cedar Mesa and Greater Canyonalands.  

Just last week, current Secretary Sally Jewell said that if local communities and Congress fail to address land management issues, then the Obama Administration will do it for them. 

We can’t stand by and let this happen.  I categorically oppose the unilateral creation of national monuments in San Juan County.

The establishment of Greater Canyonlands National Monument would be economically devastating to the people of San Juan County. 

The monument would, among other things, shut down ongoing energy production near SR 191.  

Shutting down this development would cost the county $200 million in revenues over the next 20 years, hurting local public safety, road maintenance, and education. 

Local residents would be further impacted by job losses, reduced downstream economic activity, and increases in local gas prices.  No promised increase in tourism will be sufficient to close the gap.

Supporting energy development does not make me less of a conservationist. 

I support land conservation.  But too often environmental groups present a false choice of land conservation or development. 

It’s not an either/or proposition.  When local citizens are involved in the planning process, development and conservation can co-exist. 

The local land planning process can further boost local control and management of lands and resources within the county. 

The City of Blanding could acquire 6,000 acres of federal land to create an outdoor recreation area for their citizens. 

Local agencies could oversee the historic Hole-in-the-Rock trail, ensuring that local values and cultural resources are protected.  

Infrastructure needs could be met through federal land conveyances around the Cal Black Airport and water treatment facilities. 

These are a few potential benefits.  But residents with other ideas should participate so that their ideas can also be considered. 

I support the local planning process in San Juan County. 

If successful, and San Juan County residents rally around a set of land management policies, I pledge to use all of my power and influence to move legislation as part of the Utah Public Lands Initiative in Congress.  

San Juan County residents should finally get the finality, certainty and local control they deserve.
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