My View
Key issues in county’s public lands bill alternatives...
by Lynn Jackson
May 01, 2014 | 1572 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I would like to provide some background on a few key issues relative to the county alternatives developed for input into Congressman Bishop’s proposed public lands bill. I provide these comments strictly on my behalf and am not speaking for the Grand County Council. Hopefully, this background will be helpful in considering final comments and suggestions to the council.

Antiquities Act: Future exclusion of lands in Grand County from Antiquities Act designations is presented in all three alternatives. In a February 2013 letter to President Obama, Grand County indicated it did not support a non-collaborative, special interest-driven process of single-use designation for our public lands using the Antiquities Act. The council also indicated willingness to sit down in a cooperative, multi-stakeholder process, to discuss future land management issues in our county.

After engaging in this open and deliberative process over the past months, motivated by the 2012 proposal requesting creation of a national monument in our area, it seems reasonable to ask for legislative reassurance against future use of the Antiquities Act if this effort can be successful. Grand County and others have presented a good-faith effort and those efforts should be respected and acknowledged in any proposed legislation. An exclusion from future Antiquities Act designations gives everyone this assurance.

Sego corridor: This corridor appears in all three alternatives because the potential economic importance it may present is deemed so significant. There is no proposal for the legislation to approve any type of road, pipeline or upgrade of the existing road. Legislation would simply transfer federal land ownership to the county within a relatively narrow corridor around Sego Canyon. Future analysis would determine if and how to utilize the corridor for serving the interests of this county and the state. There are conceptual ideas for uses that suggest potentially significant hydrocarbon transportation-based revenue to our county from direct access to our rail line out of the Uinta Basin. Such revenues could potentially be used to fund a wide array of county needs and programs, in addition to basic infrastructure.

As an elected county official, one of my jobs is to identify potential economic and revenue sources to fund current and future county infrastructure. Based on what we have available in Grand County, these sources are generally related to natural and other resources present in our area, such as recreation, minerals and railheads. Without access to the SITLA land block, Grand County stands to receive virtually nothing from potential oil and gas development on over 100,000 acres of land located in our county. In exchange for receiving federal land necessary for a Sego transportation corridor, a proposal has been suggested that would designate hundreds of thousands of acres of Book Cliffs wilderness adjacent to the corridor to the east and west.

USFS lands: There are questions about alternatives that do not include wilderness on U.S. Forest Service lands. The USFS has conducted multiple wilderness inventories of their lands in the past and have found no areas in the La Sals they felt qualified for designation. Conversely, past inventory, analysis and public input on BLM lands have formally identified areas in Grand County with characteristics qualifying for wilderness designation. Two of the county alternatives utilize these inventories to recommend wilderness designation on BLM lands. I would expect the USFS issue to be further reviewed by the full council to see if there is concurrence.

Roads, transportation system and RS2477: Questions have been asked regarding roads in proposed wilderness areas. The alternative maps show several roads from Grand County’s transportation plan within these proposed areas. It was my understanding, as the alternatives were developed, that the only roads that would be left open in proposed wilderness areas would be those specifically identified as “cherry-stemmed” roads on the maps. This may also apply to RS-2477 claims on the non-cherry-stemmed roads, which would require decision of the full council.

Public comment: Our county process has attempted to provide Grand County residents a voice and opportunity to present opinions and suggestions in these discussions and deliberations. These inputs have and will be considered in developing a county proposal to be recommended in the larger debate regarding public lands in our county.

The county received around 180 written comments during the initial comment period in January/February of this year, representing approximately 2 percent of our county population. The council is again providing for written comments, preferably related to the suggested land designations and use alternatives presented by the council study team at the public meeting.

The April 23 meeting was attended by over 350 residents and input from that meeting, both formal and informal, seemed reasonably indicative of the wide range of opinion in our county. I expect the council to hear from additional Grand County residents during this final written comment period ending on May 7.

I would assume our final council deliberations will review these comments, and other relevant issues and alternatives. These discussions should then result in a final determination by the full council on what recommendations to forward to Congressman Bishop for inclusion in his proposed public lands legislation.

Thank you.

Lynn Jackson is current member and chairman of the Grand County Council, elected in 2012. He is a 32-year Moab resident and worked for more than 30 years in public land management.

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