Grand County has released its three public land use alternatives to be studied and commented on by county citizens at a public hearing tonight at the Grand Center from 6 to 9 pm. This meeting is the follow-up to the public comment period that ended in January, with the vast majority of letters received from local residents and businesses calling for substantial public lands protection.

Of the three alternatives offered up by the county council, not one replaces America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) as the gold standard for protection of public lands in Grand County. Alternatives 1 and 2 are non-starters that don’t come close to protecting the amount of land deemed necessary to conserve a region’s biodiversity and halt its ecosystem degradation.

That leaves Alternative 3 as the only one standing. The conservation community is often criticized for being unwilling to compromise, but let’s see if we can improve Alternative 3 by increasing protection for Greater Canyonlands, by providing a Dome Plateau buffer around Arches NP, by dealing with the Book Cliffs “Hydrocarbon Highway,” and by protecting our watershed and some Forest Service lands in the La Sal Mountains. If compromise can’t be achieved, we still have ARRWA and the designation of a Greater Canyonlands National Monument as our safety nets.

Although it took some prodding, I commend the Grand County Council for opening the door to citizen participation in determining future county land use alternatives. It may be that based on the overwhelming desire for public lands protection expressed in the January comment letters, county residents are trying to lead the council down a path it doesn’t necessarily want to follow. But that shouldn’t stop us from turning out in force on Wednesday night at the Grand Center to show we’re not just a “vocal minority” and to show we’re willing to work with Alternative 3 to make it better.

Marc Thomas,