Nokai Dome in the San Juan-Canyonlands
region. Photo copyright Harvey Halpern.
Over the past two months, we’ve participated in a series of meetings with San Juan County commissioners and representatives of Senator Bob Bennett to discuss the merits of wilderness designations within the San Juan-Canyonlands landscape.
Throughout Senator Bennett’s process, questions have arisen about the Senator’s intent. Senate and county representatives frequently weren’t taking notes on conservationists’ presentations and county commissioners sometimes weren’t even in attendance as the process moved along. This raises questions about whether these meetings were perfunctory “window dressing” or a real effort to identify the specific issues related to federal lands in San Juan County.
Now the future of these discussions, and any potential wilderness legislation, is unclear. For example, field trips are essential when the intent is for groups with longstanding disagreements to attempt to identify common ground, but it is not clear that field trips will take place.
Whatever happens next, Utahns throughout our state — not just San Juan County residents — deserve an opportunity to learn more about the lands under consideration and make their voices heard. At the very least, Senator Bennett should convene a hearing in Salt Lake City to discuss how 1.5 million acres of wilderness in San Juan County, inventoried by citizens and included in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, should be managed for the benefit of all Americans.