Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for March 16, 2017
Commission holds open forum for public comments on GSENM
Commissioner Dirk Clayson read a statement of Kane County Commission’s appreciation and recognition of skill and benefits to the community of local BLM employees. He said BLM employees have been an asset to the commission.
Clayson went on to discuss what he called a ‘disconnect of knowledge’ regarding problems, impacts to cultural values and heritage within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), as well as the need for finding common ground.
“We need to fix problems. There will be programs in the next several commission meetings to educate the public on issues. People want us to take a stand to fix issues. We want to find some harmony and find some common ground. We need to get to the bottom of real issues,” said Clayson.
The commissioners have had discussions with the BLM about downsize mapping. They cannot participate opinion wise or take action without instructions from Washington, D.C. However, they are willing to help with information, current maps, etc.
A Power Point program consisting of a variety of maps of the GSENM was presented. They consisted of: Monument management zones from the original Monument plan. The Frontier Zone consists of about 4 percent reas of livestock and grazing. The issue is encroachment of pinon and juniper, vegetation and watershed.
“Being a grazer in the Monument, there is always pressure with a feeling of being moved out, said rancher Bruce Bunting. He lauded the improvement by the Field Office and said they have had a positive impact with wildlife and watershed. “Ranchers want to maintain the health of an allotment,” Bunting added.
Commissioner Clayson added, “I don’t see conflicts between tourism and the ranching industry. The everyday tourist likes to see cowboys.”
Kane County Office of Tourism Director Camille Johnson said, “When I meet with tour operators, they are anxious to learn about cowboy and western heritage for tours.”
Several maps in the presentation had to do with GSENM vs Kane County roads, RS2477 roads that existed before the 1976 FLPMA Act, and roads that do not allow ATVs. Clayson went on to say the number one adversary with roads is the Department of Justice and SUWA. “They never come to the county to speak with commissioners and use misinformation.”
On the RS2477 road issue, with the long drawn out legal process, some of Kane County witnesses have died.
Victor Cooper said, “I am surprised by the number of roads closed. I am a member of SUWA and am one of the few members who live here. I took SUWA to task over the ATV campaign. There is inflammatory language on both sides. How do we find the middle? Mike Noel is not helping. People come to see the west. We are 90 percent in agreement and argue over the 10 percent.”
Currently, the Travel Council is working on maps with points of interest in the county and GSENM, in part, to help the hundreds weekly who do not get the coveted permits to hike the Wave, and to promote Kane County tourism. Another map displayed was the GSENM and its size in comparison to the surrounding national parks.
The commissioners opened the meeting to comments and discussion. Martin Hepler said he appreciated the presentation and explanations. It helps us move toward common ground.
Emily Shraff said, “I appreciate your presentation, but where are your experts?” Clayson responded with a long list of agencies and individuals contacted and their input.
Doug McNeer asked, “You have not talked about extraction. Would the county consider another resolution stating no extraction in the Monument?” Clayson responded, “I don’t see economic viability or feasibility. I am surprised at so many comments about extraction of coal. Alton Coal is struggling and the Navajo Power Plant in Page is planning to shut down.”
He went on to say the commission would discuss a possible resolution.
Jim Page stated, “Senator Orrin Hatch is not helping when he said we should go after the Kaparowitz. Many are concerned.”
Rich Cenge suggested using experts from various environmental groups. “We need to be large enough to accept views and expertise from other groups.”
Clayson responded, “We welcome them with an onsite tour. I will commit to talking to the Utah delegation on their messaging regarding coal.”
Commissioner Jim Matson is a strong advocate of the Antiquities Act. He said, “We need to protect our antiquities and science research.”
Bert Harris, Kane County Roads Department, said, “Everyone likes to travel the roads, but we don’t have the opportunity to use gravel for our roads because the gravel pits are in the Monument. Right now, we can’t get a permit for gravel. We are getting increased traffic on the roads. We need gravel. Another point, these places are not going away, they are still BLM land. ”
After everyone who wanted had a chance to speak, Commissioner Clayson concluded, “Our main objective is we would like to see land management with local input and less from Washington, D.C.“
Jim Page told the commissioners, “We appreciate the demeanor of this meeting. Thanks for conducting a well behaved meeting with interaction.” Other attendees echoed what Page said.
Moving to other county business, Ron Wilson, Five County Association of Governments, introduced Bevan Killlpack for wild land fire and prevention programs. Wilson said Five County AOG realizes counties need help with their community programs to prepare for wild fires. Killpack was hired to do this and help counties get their plans done. Killpack said, “I watched a home burn in New Harmony. I don’t want to see that again.”
Commissioner Clayson said he is excited to have the extra coordination.
Commissioner Matson added, “At the recent Shingle Fire, if there had been a shift in the wind, it would have taken about one half of the Kane tax base. This program is an important program.” Killpack said he is impressed with Kane County.
The commissioners approved the 2017 Wild Land Fire Plan. Part of the plan is in connection with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands Fire Protection System Kanab Creek Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project. This includes the removal of invasive species in several areas. They are working closely with Kanab City for the removal of Tamarisk, Russian Olive and Cottonwood from the bridge on Kanab Creek Drive south to the Arizona border. Earl Levanger said, “We want to get the public involved.”
Since all of the needed rain will bring more dry grass this summer, the commissioners asked Bert Harris, if the roads department is certified. Harris replied the road crew is currently in the process of getting certified with the State Forest. Certification meaning they can use heavy equipment at a fire if needed.
The commission approved Resolution R 2017-3, a resolution of the County Commission of Kane County approving the execution of an interlocal agreement relating to the dissolution of the Glen Canyon Special Service District and the assumption of the ownership and operating of its water system by the Glen Canyon Special Service District of Big Water. The district was formed in 1979, and is now run by Big Water. Big Water has all financial obligations regarding bonds, etc. The vote was Matson and Clayson aye, with Lamont Smith absent.
In other county business, the commissioners approved closing the Shooting Range March 24 and 25, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., for 4-H Leader and Range Safety Officer Training, and April 8, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., for a Southern Utah Shootout.
The Kane County Employee Manual updates will be reviewed by the commissioners before action is taken.
At the public input section, Victor Cooper said regarding the downsize issue, “If this county had supported the GSENM, the county would be farther along.” Cooper also wanted to know how much money the county has spent in lawsuits against the federal government. Commissioner Clayson replied that has been presented many times. He will get the information out again.
Laurel Beesley said she was against changes in the Monument, “People want a rugged experience.” She added that the people do not feel their voices have been taken into account.