Curtis Wells

Several members of our Grand County Council recently received a paddling by the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB) following the denial of the funding request for the county jail. This is a painful and strong indication of where rhetoric-driven policy and a failure to grasp simple economic realities has taken us.

I warmly invite citizens to unplug from the Headwaters Institute’s economic analysis and visit your local county offices.

Visit with our county clerk. Ask her questions about our top taxpayers. Visit with members of our county council and the liaisons to our special service districts and ask them about their budgets and who funds them.

Ask them who finances the operational money and who pays the bonds on our public facilities. Ask them about how we expect to finance our new projects – such as a new sewer treatment facility.

You’ll find the answer to most of those questions is mineral development.

This is reality.

For example, our county’s recreation district pays for the mortgages on the Grand Center and the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center with mineral lease royalties. Mineral lease monies provide over half of the essential revenue needed to keep the Canyonlands Care Center open.

You’ll find that this theme is consistent and much deeper than your local government and its finances.

Mineral development is essential to everything you enjoy. It powers your car, especially if it is electric. If you have solar on your roof, it comes from rare earth elements that are mined and processed in China.

The lithium from these batteries can be found deep beneath Grand County flowing in subsurface brines and will surely be sought after in the not-so-distant future. The rubber in your tires and the plastic in your bike helmet; the screen and battery in your iPhone and GPS, all come from the earth. And whether you realize it or not, the potash mined is necessary to grow your food, and to give your body the potassium it needs to stay alive.

It all comes from Mother Earth and naturally, society places high demand on these commodities. That is why the revenues are so great for the participants and the communities.

There’s a misnconception that when we extract minerals from the earth, we ruin the earth, subsequently hurting tourism and recreation. That is false. Put down the SUWA propaganda that was paid for by taxpayer dollars after their latest lawsuit settlement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and free your mind.

Grand County has hosted vast and extensive mining booms using antiquated mining methods in the past. Today you’ll find bike trails and conservation overlapping most of these areas. Nature is powerful and nature reclaims. Period. As a matter of fact, chances are mining created the roads you travel to reach solace.

Yes, commodities are cyclical, and yes, there are booms and busts. Such is the case with all commodities. And yes, tourism and recreation have provided the consistent economic presence that Grand County has so badly needed.

But if we didn’t need mining, and the tourism economy solved all of our problems, why is mining paying the bills? Without mineral royalties, we’d go belly up and fail to make good on our commitments. Why are we relying on mineral money to build our projects and infrastructure? Why is the sky falling when mineral revenues diminish?

I support recreation and tourism. I’m an active economic participant in both mining and tourism. I’m standing up for mineral development because mineral development isn’t getting a fair shake by our community or by our local leadership.

Don’t play in the sandbox that is tourism vs. mining. We need to bring solutions to the table, not rhetoric.

I see a lot of backpedaling going on now that we’re facing budget cuts. I say instead of pointing to our potash mine that’s been producing since the 60s or our recent O&G production that you’ve grimaced through as proof of our contributions to mineral lease monies, tell me what mining projects you’ve supported locally or in what ways have you supported growth in the sector that provides the best jobs and pays the highest taxes?

I’ve watched our citizens bully mining and like many others, watched our current county council campaign on saving us from Lynn Jackson and his mining cronies. I watched these same council members rip us out of an infrastructure coalition and then subsequently eliminate our access to capital and investment that would lower our reliance on CIB fund. What message did that send? What message did we send when we marched every extreme environmentalist entity in existence through the council chamber chasing a wish list of “endangered” areas and treated them like citizens? What message do we send when we oppose multiple use and close the roads that mining built? What message did our community send by electing these people that campaigned on this garbage?

We sent a very, very anti-mineral development message.

So we got our noses rubbed in the mess we created. Don’t bite the hand, folks.

We need to elect members of our community who lack ignorant bias and understand the realities of our economy. That doesn’t mean drill baby drill. It means rational analysis and sound logic. Let’s elect folks that have a firm grip on reality and hold them accountable.

Curtis Wells is a local businessman and concerned citizen.