Dispatch from San Juan County – No. 3

many predicted it, Senator Bennett’s defeat in last Saturday’s Republican
Convention still came in a cloud of disbelief.  Even those of us who have lived
here forever and have grown used to Utah’s
political antics were shocked.  We’ve heard from friends from other places who
are worried that the closing of our borders is next on the agenda.  There is no
way to fully appreciate all the ramifications associated with losing our
three-term Senator.  Regardless of who
eventually replaces Bennett in November, his loss will affect our work in San Juan County
as well as our efforts to protect and preserve all of Utah’s Red Rock Wilderness.

see a number of possible scenarios.

1.       The Senator could decide that he
wants to leave a public lands bill in San Juan County
as a legacy.  This would mean trying to push something very complex through an
unwieldy system in unprecedented time.  This scenario might indicate that the
process in which we’re currently involved is window dressing—that many of the
decisions have already been made.  This explains much of what we’ve been
sensing– different comments made by County Commissioners (although they’ve
been working on this for months they don’t have anything concrete to add to the
discussion), perceived lack of interest on the part of commissioners (they had
conflicting schedules last week, and none attended the Thursday session) and
the difficulty that Bennett’s people have focusing.

2.       Or, the Senator decides that he
has more important things to do during his last few months in office.  Would we push to modify and then complete
this process?  Given the current political climate are our chances for getting
designation of big, important Wilderness better now or if we wait, moving into
an uncertain future?  Rumor has it that the San Juan County
Commissioners are afraid that without Senator Bennett to block it, the Red Rock
Bill might have some new legs.

3.       Without Senator Bennett as an
obstacle, could Obama/Salazar (or Obama without Salazar) decide to create new
national monuments in Utah
in order bolster national environmental support? (This makes some sense right now in light of the criticism they’re
getting over the oil spill in the Gulf–“Obama’s Katrina”—and there are a
number of Tea-bag-type Republicans who would surely blow a gasket on hearing
the news).

Can you think of any others?

busy making plans for the next meetings, which so far, are still scheduled for
next Tuesday and Wednesday.  Our focus will be on motorized “access”
– driving the discussion to address, specifically,
the legitimate roads and the excessive number of routes left open by the Bush-era
travel plans, including ghost and redundant routes. This weekend we’ll be
meeting with some of our best grassroots activists
who are excited to help us fine tune our strategy during this important time.  We’ll
keep you posted.