Grand County’s “Grand Bargain” Alternatives Threaten Utah Watersheds, Wildlands & Economic Driver

(photo by Scott Myers; the following information was published by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, April 13, 2014)

On April 9, 2014, the Grand County Council Public Lands Working Committee identified three alternative proposals, along with maps, for long term designations of public lands in Grand County, as part of Representative Rob Bishop’s proposed “Land Use Bill” for eastern Utah.

Unfortunately, even the best of the alternatives (Alternative Three) proposed by the Working Committee would roll back environmental protections in Grand County.

In fact, all the alternatives ignored the public input that the county received. Of the 182 letters received by the Council from Grand County residents and business owners, nearly 90% favored strong wilderness and public lands protection.And yet, the best of the three alternatives proposed, “Alternative Three”:

  1. Protects little more than half (58%, or 484,446 acres) of the proposed wilderness in Grand County, and then riddles that “protected wilderness” with ORV routes. The Working Committee decided that places like Porcupine Rim, Mary Jane Canyon, Fisher Towers, Goldbar Rim, the Dome Plateau, and most of Labyrinth, including Mineral Canyon, Hell Roaring Canyon, Spring Canyon, and Ten-mile Canyon were unworthy of wilderness protection.
  2. Would punch a hole through the heart of the Book Cliffs — one of the largest remaining roadless areas in the lower 48 states — to build a “Hydrocarbon Highway” for fossil fuels extraction. The county proposes a mile-wide “transportation corridor” (proposed as 2 miles wide in the other alternatives) to ship fossil fuels from the Uinta Basin and proposed tar sands mining in the Book Cliffs to dreamed-of refineries in Green River, or to the railway.
  3. Leaves open to oil and gas drilling the entire view shed east of Arches National Park, including the world-famous view from Delicate Arch. The Working Committee rejected proposed wilderness areas east of Arches. This is the same area that caused a national uproar and sent Tim DeChristopher to prison when the George W. Bush administration sold the famous 77 oil and gas leases in its waning days. Under the county’s best proposal, leasing and drilling in that region would be allowed.
  4. Allows oil and gas drilling and potash mining on the rim of Labyrinth Canyon (upstream from Spring Canyon). The lack of real protection in the greater Labyrinth Canyon area in all three proposals is a glaring and curious omission.
  5. Supports continued off road vehicle abuse and offers zero concessions on ORV routes designated in the Bush-era BLM travel plan — even though the planning of those routes likely failed to follow the law. The county would codify the BLM’s Bush-era route designations even though a federal judge recently set aside a nearly-identical travel plan in the Richfield BLM office for failure to comply with legal mandates to protect archaeology, riparian areas and other natural resources. It is likely just a matter of time before the Court overturns the challenged Moab travel plan.
  6. Fails to protect Moab’s watershed. There is no wilderness proposed for the La Sal Mountains on US Forest Service land.
  7. Prohibits the use of the Antiquities Act in Grand County — the same act that was used by three different Presidents to protect what is now Arches National Park. Although protection of Arches was opposed by Utah politicians, today Arches National Park injects more than $116 million into the local economy each year and supports more than 1,700 jobs in Grand County.

Keep in mind that Alternatives 1 & 2 are even worse! Both would impose a 2-mile wide transportation corridor for the Hydrocarbon Highway through the heart of the Book Cliffs. This is wide enough to build an entire city within the corridor. Alternatives 1 & 2 provide even less protection for Grand County’s proposed wilderness and less protection from oil & gas and potash development.

If you live in Grand County, the County Council needs to hear from you; the county must GO BEYOND “Alternative Three” and dramatically improve the Working Committee’s proposal. Here is what you can do:A public meeting is scheduled for 6 pm Wednesday April 23rd at the Grand Center to present the maps and to take public comments; written comments on the proposal will be accepted by the Grand County Council until May 2nd. Please ATTEND THIS MEETING and speak out.

  1. Attend the public meeting Wednesday, April 23rd at 6 pm at the Grand Center.
  2.  Send a letter to the Grand County Council before May 2nd addressed to: Grand County Council, 125 E Center Street, Moab, UT 84532
  3. Also send a copy of your letter to: Fred Ferguson-Legislative Director, and Rep. Rob Bishop at 123 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515

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