Monument a reality, for now
DUST IN THE WIND
by Bill Boyle
Beginning with the story on page 5, we are starting the process of looking at the national monuments near San Juan County that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They include Grand Staircase and Canyons of the Ancients.
As designated, Bears Ears NM will be managed by the BLM and US Forest Service. This represents a change since the other national monuments, parks and recreation areas in the area are managed by the National Park Service.
While Bears Ears is certainly different from Grand Staircase or Canyons of the Ancients, there are similarities. I hope that our efforts will help increase understanding of these important issues, even as we tackle several controversial topics.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, and the yet-to-be-announced position of the Trump Administration, San Juan County has been in a suspended state since the December 28 designation.
However, the reality for the moment is that the monument is here. Visitors are arriving, as evidenced by the large number of visitors who rushed to the area at the first sign of spring-like weather.
Many local residents may not like it, but Bears Ears National Monument is a legal entity that includes more than 25 percent of the landmass of San Juan County.
I believe the controversy will very slowly move toward a political or judicial conclusion, but it may take years.
Until that conclusion plays out, it is not wise to simply pretend that it doesn’t exist. The impacts exist, the visitors exist, the investors exist, and the monument exists.
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Many of those who support the Bears Ears National Monument want to discuss the public policy implications of the designation. They ask, “Is this good policy?”
I am sure that there were some great arguments about the public policy implications of the Stamp Act. But for local residents, and for the Colonists in 1776, this is much more fundamental than a discussion about public policy.
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In a Representative Democracy, citizens are given the privilege to vote. And then the winners of these elections are tasked with governing.
These elected officials are chosen by the people to have direct responsibility over the land.
For a voter from San Juan County, the results of the elections are clear.
Simply put, every single elected official with direct responsibility over the land in the monument opposes the designation of Bears Ears National Monument.
This includes every commissioner, every state representative on the ballot (Hinkins and Noel), every statewide elected official (Herbert et.al), every federal representative on the ballot (Chaffetz, Lee and Hatch), and now apparently President Trump.
Should it be a surprise that local residents scratch their heads and wonder how it is that the fully united voice of our elected representatives does not seem to mean anything?
While environmental groups, industry advocates, neighboring sovereign nations and the elected officials who represent other areas should certainly have a voice, I (and many area residents) believe the voices of directly elected representatives should carry more weight than they did in the designation of Bears Ears National Monument.