But as of Jan. 21, just 10 people had submitted written suggestions that will help the council come up with a list of recommended federal land management alternatives, according to council chairman Lynn Jackson.
That’s an improvement on the tally from Jan. 15, when Jackson reported that no one from the public had turned in any comments on the issue. However, Jackson told The Times-Independent that the council is ultimately hoping to gather more feedback from county residents.
The public comment period on potential land use recommendations to Rep. Rob Bishop’s office was originally set to close on Jan. 17. But Jackson agreed last week to extend the comment period through Thursday, Jan. 30, based on a request from local Sierra Club representative Marc Thomas.
Bishop, R-Utah, is leading a congressional effort that he says aims to resolve long-standing public lands disputes throughout eastern Utah. Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, both Utah Republicans, are also involved in the initiative.
Their compromise-driven proposal could create new wilderness areas in a seven-county region, while freeing up other federally administered lands for resource development.
Between July 2012 and late last year, the three congressmen and their staffers held more than 400 meetings in which participants discussed the public lands initiative. During that time, they heard from more than 120 different stakeholders and over 500 individuals who voiced an interest in the process, according to a November 2013 update from Bishop’s office.
But the Grand County Council has not yet submitted any specific comments on the proposal, beyond a 1999-era wilderness plan.
In order to catch up with other stakeholders, the council voted last November to begin its own public lands review process. Jackson, along with council members Rory Paxman and Jim Nyland, also volunteered to serve on a three-person committee that will develop a range of possible countywide designations for Bishop’s consideration.
Thomas told the council on Jan. 7 that he believes the issue is just beginning to appear on people’s radar screens, since it may have been overshadowed by the holiday season.
He urged the board to extend the comment period, and Jackson ultimately agreed to the request.
In light of the underwhelming public response to date, Jackson is encouraging county residents to take advantage of the extra time.
“If folks have concerns [about] what the lands in Grand County are going to look like for the next two to three decades, they should take some time and offer their thoughts and suggestions,” he said Jan. 15.
“Don’t just leave it up to [the county council] to guess what people want,” he added.
Comments should be sent in writing directly to: Grand County Council, 125 E. Center St., Moab UT 84532, Attn: Public Lands Bill. Email messages will not be accepted.
Once the comments have been submitted and reviewed, the council’s study committee will prepare a list of draft alternatives. The public will have a chance to comment on those alternatives in late February or early March, when the council plans to host a public meeting at the Grand Center.
For more information about Bishop’s public lands initiative, go to: http://robbishop.house.gov.
Editor's Note: This version corrects that Rory Paxman is the third council member on the public lands subcommittee, along with Lynn Jackson and James Nyland.