In the spring of 2013, Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) announced the kickoff of a public process in which he hoped to bring multiple stakeholders together for the purpose of drafting a bill to settle land-use disputes in eastern Utah (aka the “Utah Public Lands Initiative”). The Congressman stated that he hoped all interested parties could reach a compromise that would finally resolve the decades-old struggle over protecting versus exploiting some of this country’s most stunning landscapes. This naturally includes much of the world-class public lands in and around Grand County.
As part of the initiative, Rep. Bishop asked for specific land-protection proposals from interested constituencies, including the conservation community and the counties containing much of that public land. Recently, the Grand County Council has appointed a three-person committee to work on drafting the county’s proposal. It is our hope that, as it goes about its task, the committee will pay attention to the broad and diverse range of interests of all of us who make this county our home.
As residents, property owners, business owners, retirees, and taxpayers in Grand County, we have all chosen to live, work, play, and raise our families here for the most obvious reason. There is simply no place in the world like the amazing red rock and desert landscapes of Grand County. It is this land that elevates our spirit, provides our home, our recreation, and, in many cases, our very livelihood.
While we recognize that competing interests may not always agree, we also believe there is a common thread that draws together many residents of Grand County: love of the land. That is the sentiment that motivates so many of us to try to protect it—not only for the present generation, but for future generations who will not have a voice at Rep. Bishop’s table. We are also aware that, because the land belongs to the public, we are stewards of it for all Americans, and, increasingly, for a world community.
Those are the reasons that we urge the County Council to follow a thorough and transparent procedure in its deliberations. Openness and careful scrutiny of all alternatives will garner the strongest public support, because they will insure that all voices and ideas are heard. To that end, we suggest that:
• The committee seeks public input from the very beginning of its work. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Its meetings can be open to the public, or the minutes of meetings can be made available for public response.
• The committee presents a draft proposal to the public in an open forum, again giving the people of Grand County an opportunity to respond. This preliminary draft could include alternative scenarios to evaluate.
• The committee accepts and incorporates public comments into its draft.
• Only after this public vetting should the committee present a final proposal for County Council approval.
In sum, we believe that, whatever the final outcome of the Utah Public Lands Initiative, it ought to be the result of an open-minded, balanced procedure, one that gives it the stamp of legitimacy while at the same time avoiding any appearance of cronyism or favoritism. We hope that the final outcome will ensure the long-term economic vitality, physical beauty, and unmatched quality of life in eastern Utah, for those are the very characteristics that brought us here in the first place.
The following Grand County residents have signed onto this letter:
Mike & Jean Binyon
Lew & Sandy Hinchman
Kay & Dave McLean
Terri Ann Tibbitts
Dick & Deb Walter
Terry Tempest Williams