Blanding City plans workshops for Bears Ears Draft comments, approves discretionary funds for San Juan Showcase ride

by David Boyle
News Director
Blanding city council approved funds towards a free ATV ride, approved a policy on sending overdue utilities to collections, and talked about comments on the Bears Ears plan at their latest meeting.
Members of the Blanding City Council approved an award of discretionary funds to go towards the San Juan Showcase ride at the March 26 meeting.
The ATV ride event planned for the weekend of April 19 is put on by Blanding business Sunrise Outfitting. Co-owners Josh and Lloyd Nielson approached the council sharing that the event in its second year is a free ride, with the company covering the cost of permits and paying for the eight guides for the rides.
The Nielsons shared they put on the free ride event in hopes of showing-off the area and bringing business to the area, with last year’s event bringing hotel patrons and purchases at local businesses. The organizers are expecting 70-80 machines at the event and 130-180 people on the rides.
Economic Development Director Ben Muhlestein shared the event would bring in an estimate of $3,000 in sales tax, with additional transient room tax coming in though the amount was not estimated.
Sunrise estimated their costs to be over $8,000 with the company eating that cost last year, they asked for $4,800 in the request with the council approving $3,200 in discretionary funds to go towards the event.
Muhlestein shared in working with Sunrise that they’ve found possible future funding options for the event through state nonprofits, while Sunrise says their long-term goal is to be able to absorb the cost of the event annually.
Members of the council approved the $3,200 in discretionary funds, noting that while they council has long had funds for projects such as this they have had some difficulty in getting citizen interest with those requests usually limited to a two-month window in the early spring. 
At the meeting members of the council also discussed the draft management plan of the Bears Ears National Monument and a plan to provide training to citizens who wish to comment on the plan.
A 90-day public comment is open now for the draft plan through June 11, which will guide the management of the national monument.
The 1,212 pages found in volumes 1 and 2 of the draft lay out five alternatives, including an identified preferred alternative, for the management of the 1.36 million acre monument located in San Juan County.
The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service is hosting seven public meetings related to the draft plan.
The open houses run from 6 to 8 p.m. Local meetings will be held at USU Blanding on April 23 and at Monument Valley High on May 16.
Two virtual meetings will be held, the first on Tuesday, April 16 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and the second on Thursday, May 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. You can register to attend these meetings on Zoom.
Other in-person meetings will take place in Salt Lake, Arizona, and New Mexico.
As part of the city council meeting members of the council heard from Kendall Laws of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office (PLPCO). Laws and the council made plans to provide three public trainings to provide effective comments for the draft plan.
Laws outlined that form letters only count as a single comment even if people send in the same letter thousands of times. Laws also shared letters don’t have to be long, but can have an impact if written appropriately.
City staff and council members tentatively scheduled workshop meetings for April 24, Ma 15 and June 5. With workshops occurring from Noon to 1:00 pm on those days and from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm as well.
Mayor Logan Monson added that the training is for all residents who want to provide a comment.
“This isn’t to give anybody an opinion, we’re being clear about that. We’re not trying people what to think about this, but it’s important we give effective comments.”
At the meeting members of the council also approved a policy to establish guidelines for sending Blanding City utility accounts to collections when they are at least 90 days past due.

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