High Desert Hoofbeats
The minority has merit...
by Sena Taylor Hauer
May 29, 2014 | 1139 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I believe in majority-rule decision making, even when I disagree with the majority. Maybe that’s one reason I haven’t put my heart and head into the Bishop Public Lands Initiative, which seeks guidance on sensitive and critical issues regarding thousands of acres of government-managed land in southeastern Utah. On this big topic I have been comfortable sitting back to see how our community weighs in, and being ready to accept the outcome.

Problem is, there hasn’t been a majority viewpoint on this topic. The land conservationists appear to have about as many voices on their side as do the land users, with only a small percent of responders suggesting any kind of middle ground. For this reason, I am inclined to take a hard look at the recommendations of the minority in this fight. I think it’s quite possible that their views may be the most legitimate, involving the needed give-and-take that could help settle issues of wilderness and multiple-use practices on our BLM lands.

It appears as though months of meetings have done little to point Grand County in a solid direction on how to manage our myriad acres of government land. If I were sitting on the county council, I would have run out of steam by now on how to put forward a recommendation to Rep. Bishop. I hope our council has enough energy to fully see the task through, but coming up with a recommendation that is truly community driven seems to prove impossible because there is little if any common sentiment.

The council has made a diligent effort to hear from our diverse populace. And our diverse populace has answered back. But there is no consensus. It appears our council members will likely make their decisions based as much on personal sentiments as from how their constituents would want them to vote.

I suspect that upcoming elections will turn on how this initiative is played out. If an election of the people could chart the course on this public lands initiative, instead of a recommendation by our council, I wonder what side would win.

It appears the council, after much deliberation, may stick with a management plan that endorses what the county has backed the last 15 or so years, and that it won’t recommend designating any new wilderness areas or a national recreation area. Such a move, to stay the course of the last several years, would be the least drastic. And the least impressive. I don’t believe it’s the result that any of the stakeholders had hoped for when talks began seven months ago. But by doing so, Grand County could toss their hot potato on toward Rep. Bishop, and he can take the next step.

Several other eastern Utah counties have been part of the Bishop initiative, and many of them have submitted their recommendations. But that fact shouldn’t pressure our council to rush a decision or to pass the buck. Of the hundreds of comments received from the public on the matter, only 20 percent suggested compromises. Perhaps in this case the minority should have the most merit because of their effort to stay out of either trench.

It would be refreshing to find a common ground on a battlefield where opposing sides find no interest in making compromises.

I think there is a good chance that President Obama will affect the debate before a Utah-driven plan is hatched, and that he may create a national monument in our region. If he does, I’ll try to be as accepting of it as I will be of our county council’s recommendation.

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