Local companies named on ‘boycott’ list for supporting national monument proposal near Canyonlands
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Dec 06, 2012 | 6277 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Grand County companies whose owners signed a letter to President Obama supporting federal protection for 1.4 million acres surrounding Canyonlands National Park are facing an economic boycott that some say has been spurred by the locally-based Sagebrush Coalition.

The coalition’s Facebook page includes a list of local and national companies that signed the Nov. 13 letter from the Outdoor Industry Association urging Obama to create the Greater Canyonlands National Monument. The companies are named under a heading that reads, “Here’s the boycott list.”

A sub-heading adds, “Companies that want responsible users like YOU out of public lands.” Moab businesses that are named include Canyon Voyages Adventure Co., Moab Cliffs and Canyons, EklectiCafé, Moab Coffee Roaster, Desert Bistro, and Miguel’s Baja Grill along with Canyonlands Field Institute.

Contacted Wednesday, Sagebrush Coalition president James Tibbetts stopped short of saying the organization endorses a boycott.

“If somebody wants to, that’s up to them,” he said. “It’s been discussed and people can do whatever they want.”

Ray Tibbetts, James’ uncle who is also active in the Sagebrush Coalition, said, “I don’t know if we will” urge a boycott.

However, Deep Desert Expeditions owner Mike Coronella says he’s already feeling the backlash even though he didn’t sign the letter. He commented favorably on some Moab companies’ websites, thanking them for supporting the Greater Canyonlands idea, and soon received offensive emails, he said.

Coronella said someone even commented on the website of the business that employs his wife, announcing his support for the proposal.

“It’s pretty nuts,” Coronella said. “It’s full-on bullying.”

Coronella recently sent a photo to The Times-Independent showing deep ruts in a sand hill made by a motorized vehicle that veered off the Moab Rim Trail. He shot the photo Nov. 25 and told the newspaper, “I’d like to add this to the discussion about the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument. I think it graphically illustrates the unfortunate need for increased regulation of this type of visitor.”

In a commentary sent to the newspaper, Coronella added that companies that signed the letter to Obama “have since come under a seemingly organized online attack of harassment, misinformation and bullying.” The call for a boycott comes instead of “constructive debate or conversation,” he wrote.

Ashley Korenblat, who signed the letter as co-owner of Western Spirit Cycling Adventures, said a boycott would be unfortunate and negative.

“One of the great things about Moab is we are all in it together,” she said. “It would be a tragedy for a lot of negative energy to be spent amongst ourselves while the Canadian resource extraction companies carry on with their resource extraction plans, some of which could hurt all of us.”

She called public land “the backbone of the outdoor industry.”

“The industry is interested in making sure that quality outdoor experiences continue to be available,” she said.

Korenblat added she hopes outdoor businesses and members of the Sagebrush Coalition can seek common goals together.

“I am hoping to work with everyone in the community who depends on the recreation economy to find ways to manage the land to optimize recreation,” she said. “I would be happy to work with anybody who shares that goal.”

Meanwhile, Ray Tibbetts said he opposes monument status for land around Canyonlands National Park because it isn’t necessary.

“We’ve used it all these years and we haven’t ruined anything,” he said.

Tibbetts also objects to Obama possibly using the Antiquities Act for the designation, saying, “It bypasses Congress, the people, everybody.”

Sagebrush Coalition members are circulating petitions among people who want to block national monument status. Tibbetts said the petitions will be given to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources; U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch; and others.

James Tibbetts, the coalition’s president, said the group is gathering petition signatures in Blanding, Monticello, Green River, Hanksville and elsewhere. The monument would encompass an active oil field that has been in production for several decades, he said.

“This would also affect some potash, which people are exploring for near Hatch Point in San Juan County,” James Tibbetts said.

He recalled former President Bill Clinton’s use of the Antiquities Act to create the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah in 1996. Tibbetts said that took 2 trillion tons of coal off the market.

“It’s the biggest low-sulfur coal deposit in the West and now it’s gone,” he said.

Tibbetts added that putting the Canyonlands area off-limits to resource extraction would hurt local residents financially by reducing state allocations from the mineral leasing fund. That money helped build the Old Spanish Trail Arena south of Moab, he said.

Supporters of the recent Greater Canyonlands National Monument proposal point out that the recent letter to Obama from the Outdoor Industry Association is not connected to a push by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to get more protection for the Canyonlands area.

The effort by SUWA has been going on since March 2011, when SUWA joined with the Sierra Club and many other groups asking the Secretary of the Interior to bar off-road vehicle use on 1,050 miles of ORV routes in “sensitive habitat, streams, wetlands, riparian areas, archaeological sites and other vulnerable areas” until studies of the impacts can be done.

SUWA’s website says the Obama administration has “continued to defend President Bush’s plans that leave this area open to rampant off-road vehicle abuse, proposed uranium and tar sand mining, and oil and gas development.”

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