Dear Editor,

It seems that more and more our public lands are being threatened, not only by the representatives of Utah state government who want the federal government to turn over public lands in Utah to the state, but also by the GOP on a national level. Every day we hear a new story about how Trump and the GOP plan on removing protection for our public lands. The first week of January, the House Republicans, including Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, voted to overturn a rule requiring Congress to calculate the value of federal land before transferring it to states or other entities. This action removes a barrier that limits lawmakers from ceding federal control of public lands.

This type of legislation and its intent make it more important for us to stay informed about what is happening. We can celebrate our victories like the creation of the Bears Ears Monument; however, we must recognize that the state and the GOP in Congress will be working to pass legislation that will benefit corporate America with no regard for preserving wilderness much less protecting our water and air quality.

We need to concentrate our energy and time into being aware of what is happening here in southeastern Utah and in Grand County in particular. There are many examples of the lack of stewardship that the State of Utah and SITLA have displayed regarding our public lands. We have only to look at the oil wells and flaring of natural gas that are evident on the road to Dead Horse Point State Park to see their lack of concern for wilderness experience, much less air quality and public safety.

The state roadless area in the Book Cliffs was leased for oil and gas development with no public input or participation. There is news that U.S. Oil Sands has obtained enough funding to finance another year of their tar sands project at PR Springs in Grand County. This land has already been razed and devastated to the point that photos of the site are reminiscent of mountaintop coal removal.

Utah cannot afford the financial burden of managing public lands. There is a conservative estimate that it would cost Utah taxpayers $100 million annually to manage these lands. As fire seasons grow longer with climate change and temperatures continue to increase, Utah would also be responsible for all future wildfire costs in the state.

Even closer to home is the revival of the Lionsback Resort development project. SITLA is a partner in this project with a developer and has threatened that if changes to this project are not approved and permitted, they will proceed without regard to the ordinances of Grand County, or the City of Moab. It seems there is little regard about important issues related to Moab’s water quality or sewage disposal system impact on the Moab aquifer. Our state government is not showing itself to be a good steward of our land.

We need to stay informed, write letters to our state representatives and county and city councils and speak out about what is important to us for preserving our public lands. Our public lands need and deserve our protection for now and for future generations.