Southern Utah News Articles
Residents voice their opinion of Resolution 2-2-17R at February 14 Kanab City Council meeting
Kanab Mayor Robert Houston welcomed a crowd of over 100 people, jammed into the new Kanab City Council (KCC) chambers at the relocated city offices in the old middle school.
These folks were not there for a house warming for the council’s first meeting in their new quarters. Rather, they came to voice their concerns regarding Resolution 2-2-17R, ‘A Resolution Declaring Kanab City’s Intent to Identify the Minimum Area Necessary for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’ (GSENM), as was posted barely 24 hours earlier on the city’s state website.
Many of those attending were still smarting from what they perceived as being brushed off by the Kane County commissioners in a meeting two weeks earlier on the same topic.
However, the city’s resolution was modified considerably from that proposed by the county commissioners, whose resolution was unaltered from the one submitted to the state legislature by Representative Mike Noel days earlier. The content of these resolutions can be found on their respective governmental websites.
Mayor Houston asked the audience to limit their comments to the resolution and stay in control during the Public Comment Period. He prefaced the comments by saying that what they are asking in the resolution is for an inventory of lands in the GSENM that do not meet the criteria for protection under the American Antiquities Act (AAA) of 1906.
Richard Jenkinson opened the comments saying, “We moved to Kanab a year ago because of the land, the public land, which we all have the right to enjoy and need to preserve.”
Jo Anne Rando-Moon complained that the resolution issue on the KCC agenda was not posted until the morning of the meeting. This was supported by Noel Poe, who said the earliest he found the resolution on the KCC website was 10:45 that morning. Further, he noted that the Garfield County commissioners postponed their resolution meeting for two weeks to allow the public more notice.
Later, Kanab City Attorney Jeff Stott commented on the posting by saying, “If the resolution is posted within 24 hours of the meeting, which was the case, it can be acted upon in the meeting.”
Patricia Linehan questioned the validity of the ‘Whereas’ clauses stated in the Kane County/Mike Noel resolution, and partially incorporated in the city’s resolution. “There are no substantiated facts or data supporting the accusations that the monument is responsible for the negative impacts to the area they claim in these whereas declarations.”
This was seconded by Jim Walls, who asked, “Why is there no evidence listed to substantiate these whereas allegations?”
Charlie Neumann and Steve Hogseth stated that what the resolution was really aimed at was to open protected monument lands to extractive industries.
Jim Page asked, “Why pass something that dismantles an economic engine that generates millions of dollars for the region and the State of Utah?”
Will James, Kanab tour guide operator, claimed it wasn’t ethical to pass a resolution that negatively impacts 82 percent of Kanab businesses and, in turn, it’s citizens.
Kanab outdoor retail store owner, Susan Hand, cited the same figure for Utahns participating in some form of outdoor recreation, and that 122,000 people are employed in businesses supporting outdoor experiences. “You can’t afford to treat this resolution lightly,” she urged the council,
Megan Smith summed up the pro-monument sentiment by stating, “The GSENM has always been a land of multiple uses, but it also gives this public land the protection it deserves. President Teddy Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, was a conservationist with foresight, and I hope the city council can demonstrate some of the same in their decision regarding this resolution.”
Those few present who favored the resolution included a rancher and vacation home owner, who felt the monument was not needed to sustain his vacation rental business. “Ranchers have been harmed by grazing reductions on the monument and the land management policies the BLM has enacted,” he said.
Another attendee felt there was validity in the ‘Whereas’ clauses addressing the intent of the AAA. “I think the GSENM designation exceeded the area limitations implied in the act, and this should be addressed in discussions within working groups on the subject of size reduction.”
Kane County Commissioner Dirk Clayson stated that neither the county commissioners nor the city council members were qualified to determine what is working and what is not on the monument.
“These meetings are the beginning of many conversations that we need to have with all affected parties regarding the monument,” stated Clayson. “Tourism is the prime economic stimulus in this area, and I see no real future for extractive industries here. But monument regulations curtail some activities on the monument, like the Grand2Grand race and a bicycle race that wanted to go up the Johnson Canyon Road, but couldn’t because of group size limit restrictions on the monument prevented it. These restrictions and road closures hamper access to the monument.”
Prior to comments by city council members, Mayor Houston opined that there were a lot of assumptions made about the intent of the city’s resolution, and it was only to look at areas qualifying for monument designation under the AAA.
Joe B. Wright echoed that statement saying, “The intent of the resolution is to encourage affected parties to identify the minimum area qualifying for monument designation. Kanab city cannot do that.”
Brent Chamberlain favored identifying what are appropriate lands to protect in the monument after scientifically based studies are conducted. “I’m not in favor of identifying a minimum acreage, but I do feel that the monument was created without a scientific basis to support it,” commented Chamberlain.
Jeff Yates said, “I’m a fan of the monument and believe it has increased tourism in our area. We need to define an appropriate size, not a minimum.”
Michael East would like to see qualified people determine monument boundaries. “I would support a resolution to appoint an appropriate committee to determine the smallest area compatible with the provisions of the AAA,” East declared.
Byard Kershaw acknowledged that a lot of GSENM tourism dollars are spent in Kanab, but regretted it was designated, without local input by President Bill Clinton from the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 1996.
A motion was made and passed to postpone any vote on Resolution 2-2-2017R, until such time as more information is available for consideration.
Houston closed the discussion by saying, “My livelihood depends on tourism, and I will not harm that industry. But the monument was a dictatorial designation by Clinton, who never asked for local input regarding it’s design. I am requesting from the public written specific comments, with supportive facts, addressing the resolutions declarations.”
Someone in the room then asked, “Can you provide us with facts supporting your ‘Whereas’ statements?” There was no reply.
The council passed Resolution 2-1-2017, the Five County Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan intended to reduce hazardous fuel sources in and around Kanab.
Also approved were the appointments of Jill Harmon, Mikelle Stott and Josh Warburton to the Kanab Arts Board for terms ending January 31, 2019.
Appointments to the Kanab Heritage Board were approved for Linda Alderman, Lonnie Kirby, Coral Lee Kelly, Lloyd De Angelis, Bob Aiken, Maggie Browning and Alan Demille.