On Wednesday, August 14, nearly 100 people attended the first public meeting of Keep Kanab Unspoiled (KKU) formed after the city council’s approval of the water sale to Southern Red Sands (SRS) and the county’s approval of the company’s conditional use permit for the sand frac mine and processing plant. The meeting was a chance for KKU to explain and discuss its continuing efforts to block the mine.

After some music by the group Fool’s Gold, Bart Battista, the Director of the Canyon Division of Best Friends Animal Society, spoke on behalf of Best Friends. Battista reported on the decision by Best Friends to pursue an appeal of the county’s granting of the conditional use permit to SRS. KKU had originally planned to file this appeal, but Best Friend’s decided just before the deadline to take on the case. 

Battista indicated there are other possible legal challenges Best Friends may pursue. In particular, he noted that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has to make a decision on the SRS application for expanding and improving the access road to the planned site for the mine. Best Friends submitted comments on the scope of the required environment assessment for the road, as did several environmental organizations. If BLM decides to pursue an overly narrow path on its environmental assessment, it can be contested in court.

Battista also updated the group on the progress of the hydrology report being done by Dr. Ken Kolm on Kanab’s available supply of water. His expectation is the report will be done some time in the fall. It will then be submitted to the Utah Geological Survey for review.

After Battista spoke, Sky Chaney, president of the Taxpayer Association, reviewed the history of the struggle against building a coal gasification plant in Kanab. Chaney pointed out that the struggle involved four years of costly legal battles. At many times, it appeared they would lose, but they kept fighting. At the end of the day, the company gave up its effort. KKU will continue to pursue legal challenges where they make sense and will look to coordinate with other organizations where possible.

Laura Klina, chair for KKU’s Social Media Committee, gave an update about volunteer involvement with the various social media accounts. She reported there were over 268 “followers” to Facebook as of that afternoon, averaging 50 views a day. Instagram increased from 100 followers the previous Friday, to 483 (as of last Wednesday). Lastly, the Keep Kanab Unspoiled website was noted to have over 256 unique users logging in, most of them referred through Facebook and Instagram accounts. While Kanab and Salt Lake City were the top locations for those accessing the site, there were also visitors from over a dozen large cities across the country.

Klina also gave a more general volunteer update mentioning KKU’s four committees: Fundraising, Red Knoll Events, Local Business Outreach, and Public Awareness. She encouraged people to volunteer as a way to feel empowered, more connected with others during this battle, and also hear more about the groundwork being done when they attend the volunteer meetings. 

Another KKU member, Dean Baker, gave a brief update on fundraising, saying several thousand dollars had already been raised through door-to-door solicitations, received in hand or by mail, or through donations online through the website. While he said this was impressive progress, KKU will likely need tens of thousands of dollars, primarily for legal expenses and its media campaign.

Baker also spoke about the new Change.org petition KKU had just started.

At that point, the petition already had more than 600 signatures (it is now over 1,600). The petition is directed to Kem Gardner and the Gardner Company, asking them to withdraw their support for SRS’ sand frac mine. It points out that this mine is a sharp contrast from the legacy they have built for themselves as supporting community and environmentally friendly projects.  

The meeting concluded with a mention of upcoming events, including a raffle at Willow Canyon the evening of August 24, and a music and poetry celebration at Diana’s Throne off Highway 89 on Sunday, September 8.