After tabling the issue for two weeks so he could consider revisions to his Resolution 3-1-17 R, a resolution declaring Kanab City’s support for identifying the areas within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) that do not meet the criteria of the Antiquities Act of 1906, Mayor Robert Houston brought a slightly condensed version of his initial proposal to the Kanab City Council meeting on March 14.

At the February 28 meeting, a standing-room-only crowd, nearly all of whom supported the boundaries of the GSENM as it now exists, was invited to confer their opinions of the monument to the mayor directly. A few of them did that.

Over 30 citizens attended the March 14 meeting, although many thought that public comment on the issue would not be entertained. Those wishing to were allowed to voice an opinion and all were done courteously. Mayor Houston prefaced the comments by stating, “Both sides of this debate are dealing with fears that may, in reality, be non-issues.”

Claudia Brescia felt the public is not being informed about these type of issues on a timely basis.

Richard Jenkinson remarked that there is really no market for coal now, and that is what is at the center of this push by Representative Noel’s resolution already adapted by the state legislators. His wife Lynn stated tourism could be negatively-affected. “There are cultural and scientific reasons to include the Kaiparowits within the monument,” she said.

Pete Cooper said, “You have already decided what you want to do with this resolution. There has been no open discussion or forum on the issues presented in this resolution, and no democratic process involved in it.”

Rina Cooper felt it set up a domino effect, “The lands designated in the monument were already federal lands belonging to all Americans. If they were ever controlled by the state, they would eventually be auctioned off to the highest private entity bidder and ‘No Trespassing’ signs could prevent the access to these lands we have today.”

Latimer Smith said it was unfair to imply by this resolution, and those previous, that there was no public support for the GSENM. The feeling expressed by council member Michael East that the council must also represent the sentiment of the so-called ‘silent majority,’ who do not show up at these meetings, is confusing to many like Smith.

Rich Csenge was concerned about outsiders’ perception of Kanab as the resolution becomes more well known. “Why make a public statement that could undermine our all important tourist industry,” he questioned.

Doug McNair feared the decision on monument boundaries will lie with President Trump and will be unduly influenced by the extractive industries and taken in an atmosphere of greed. 

Mindy McGuire, who has a ranching background, felt it was entirely appropriate to take a look at reducing the monument in the hope that it would reduce certain monument regulations she felt were adversely affecting ranchers.

Noel Poe quoted the renowned American poet Carl Sandberg, who wrote, “The roots of America have always been in the land.  We take pride in our monumental landscapes.  Wilderness is the American antiquity.”

With that, the council members were asked for their comments on the resolution.

Byard Kershaw, a former BLM employee, stated that any land taken from the GSENM remains under the control of the BLM, albeit with less restrictions on the use of that land. He didn’t feel that the resolution process was done in secret and there would be no change in the landscape itself. He felt the BLM would be its own worst enemy if they bucked the state takeover of these lands.

Michael East said he had read Presidential Proclamation 6920, that describes some of the reasons for including certain lands in the Monument for flora and fauna reasons, which were not a part of the criteria outlined in the American Antiquities Act (AA) of 1906. “I feel it was a Federal government land grab, and this resolution sends a message that if this type of thing ever happens again, it will be met with resistance,” stated East. “I want the AA to be followed as it was intended and consideration of plants and animals is not part of it.” [Note: The lands designated as the monument were already under federal control. State lands within the monument were traded for federal lands outside the monument.]

Jeff Yates recognized the positive impact the GSENM has on area tourism, but said 65 percent of the monument is inaccessible to tourists. “I am not in favor of Utah taking control of these Federal lands,” Yates said.

Brent Chamberlain remains upset over how the Monument was designated. “The president should not have the ability to designate a Monument before scientific study has been undertaken to justify a designation under the AA criteria,” he reiterated.

Joe B. Wright believes the Kanab area has benefited from the GSENM and believes in it, but had to ask himself if he would have voted for it 20 years ago. “Why are we so upset over these Federal lands?” he asked. When the sawmill shut down in Fredonia and Energy Fuels uranium mines closed, the bottom fell out of our economy. The Federal government owns 94 percent of Kane County.  What are we getting out of it?”

Resolution 3-1-17 R was then stated as follows: The Kanab City Council urges the Utah State Legislature and the Utah federal legislative delegation to support a public  input  process and possible legislative action that will inventory and perhaps modify the GSENM boundaries to the appropriate area necessary to protect the antiquities and the objects identified in the Presidential Proclamation 6920, September 23, 1996, which are in accordance with the American Antiquities Act of 1906.

The resolution was unanimously passed by the council.

Mike Reynolds, Kanab City Land Use Coordinator, outlined a proposal that the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission has been working on the past three months regarding the density of short-term rental housing in Kanab’s neighborhoods. The proposal specifies that no more than 25 percent of homes on a city block, that are not owner occupied, can be utilized as a short term rental. Presently, homes in a planned development, governed by a Home Owners Association, are exempt from this proposed resolution, which will be debated in the next council meeting on March 28.