San Juan County Dispatch #6

After all the speculation and runaway rumors surrounding the future of the San Juan County process since Sen. Bennett’s loss in the Republican Caucus, we got some clarity yesterday. We received word that Sen. Bennett has determined that moving public lands legislation on the scale and importance of what a San Juan County bill could potentially be–will be–impossible this year. As it stands he will continue to direct the process he started back in April, moving it as far as he can before passing it off to Senator Hatch, whose staff met with San Juan County officials this past week.

We think this is the right decision and we want to thank Senator Bennett for making it.

This is all in keeping with comments made in a KUER interview aired June 21st. (Here’s the link if you missed it.

Besides Senator Bennett’s remarks on the San Juan process, this interview also includes those of SUWA Executive
Director, Scott Groene, who reiterated the importance of field trips, which were included in the original plans for San Juan County process and have played an important role in the on-going work in Emery County. Groene made the point that resolving these issues requires moving beyond the ideology surrounding wilderness, and the act of bringing all stakeholders together on-the-ground may be the only way this is possible.

We hope that the Senator’s decision not to “fast-track” this process– allowing it the necessary time to get it right–means thoughtfully planned field trips.

At the last scheduled meeting in late May, SUWA Attorney Liz Thomas presented Senator Bennett’s staff with a prioritized list of thirteen areas we would hope to visit during field trips based on existing conflicts. The top three areas —Arch Canyon, Moqui Canyon, and Nokai Dome—all have unique natural characteristics which are threatened by ORV’s using routes that should have never been included in the BLM’s Travel Plan and should be closed. We believe that this will be obvious to most stakeholders who are able to experience these places firsthand.