2017 was a momentous time in Moab and southeastern Utah, and as it comes to an end, the Moab Sun News is taking a look back at some of the top stories of the past 12 months.
Just days before residents in southeastern Utah ushered in the new year last January, then-President Barack Obama invoked the federal Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare the massive Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County. The announcement thrilled many who have long sought protections for the 1.35-million-acre area’s archaeological resources and diverse landscapes, but infuriated others who viewed it as an example of federal overreach run amok. Less than one month later, President Donald Trump took office, and his administration quickly signaled that it would move to reduce the new monument’s boundaries, drawing praise from elected officials in San Juan County, and condemnation from tribal leaders and environmentalists. To no one’s surprise, Trump formally reduced Bears Ears’ boundaries by about 85 percent on Dec. 4, and a legal battle that could take years to resolve began hours later, as tribes and others asked federal courts to reverse his decision.
In one of its first actions of 2017, the Grand County Council took up another contentious issue: a recommendation that asked a federal board to formally rename Negro Bill Canyon. But whereas previous recommendations faltered among more divided councils, the board voted 5-2 in favor of the recommendation, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names ultimately renamed the popular recreation area northeast of Moab “Grandstaff Canyon.” Chris Baird was one of the “aye” votes on that issue, but the council’s complexion changed in June, when Baird announced he was resigning from his seat, and Patrick Trim was later appointed to fill in the remainder of Baird’s term. Throughout the year, county council members responded to residents’ complaints about impacts from growing numbers of bed-and-breakfast operations, voting initially to impose a moratorium on new B&Bs, and then limiting them to the county’s Overnight Accommodations Overlay Zone.
At the city level, Moab continued to stabilize, as new department heads and Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder joined Moab City Manager David Everitt, moving beyond the often-rocky administration of former City Manager Rebecca Davidson. As the year progressed, the city prepared to say goodbye to longtime Mayor Dave Sakrison and Moab City Council member Kyle Bailey, and welcome Mayor-elect Emily Niehaus and council members-elect Karen Guzman-Newton and Mike Duncan. During the interim, city officials grappled with an agreement to resolve a dispute over changes to the previously approved Lionsback Resort development, as well as a conditional use permit for a 196-unit apartment complex off Mill Creek Drive.
The community mourned the loss of Grand County Middle School student Lily McClish, who died by suicide in late January after she was reportedly bullied, and school officials worked with counselors to raise awareness about the mental health resources in the community. In early March, tragedy struck again, when two local teenagers were killed – and three more were seriously injured, including the driver – in a car accident near Ken’s Lake. Driver Gage Moore, who was heavily intoxicated and speeding at the time, was later sentenced to one year in jail for two counts of automobile homicide, but the sentence angered many of the victims’ family members – one of whom said that Moore “got away with” murder.
Monument brings joy to some, draws ire of others
Former President Barack Obama’s Dec. 28, 2016, proclamation of a 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County drew strong and sometimes passionate reactions from monument supporters and foes alike in southeastern Utah. For monument supporters like Monument Valley resident Alfred Myerson, the designation ensures that culturally significant and environmentally sensitive areas that are sacred to area tribes will be permanently off limits to development and looting. But for San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams, it’s another example of federal overreach in San Juan County. Adams said he’s perhaps most frustrated that the president’s decision to declare the monument was not based on a locally driven process.
Change Negro Bill name, council says
The Grand County Council voted 5-2 on Jan. 3 to send a letter that formally asked the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the name of Negro Bill Canyon to “Grandstaff Canyon”; Rory Paxman and Curtis Wells voted against the majority. Both names recognize William Grandstaff, an African-American settler who lived in the area from 1877 to 1881. Grand County Council member Mary McGann first decided to revisit the issue after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine people in 2015 at an historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina. The word “Negro,” she said, is an offensive symbol of oppression that tarnishes Grand County’s image among visitors. McGann said the change is needed to properly honor Grandstaff. “It’s an issue of showing respect to a gentleman who was one of the founders in this county,” she said. NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho-Nevada-Utah President Jeanetta Williams said the word “Negro” should not be construed as derogatory, and she said the late civil rights icon Julian Bond fully supported her position on the issue.
Davidson seeks almost $1.94 million from city
In a notice of intent to commence civil action, former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson alleged that she was wrongfully terminated from her job because she brought concerns about the Moab City Police Department to the attention of Mayor Dave Sakrison and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The legal notice seeks $825,000 in punitive damages against Sakrison – and, “to the extent allowable,” the city. She also asked for $400,000 in damages due to emotional pain, suffering and trauma she claims she has experienced following her dismissal, plus $305,640 in lost salary and benefits, and another $407,520 in other lost wages and benefits. In the days and weeks after her September 2016 departure, there was widespread speculation that Davidson’s management style was a factor in her termination, although city officials have said they cannot discuss the matter because it involves personnel-related matters.
Hundreds join anti-Trump protests
President Donald Trump has often said that “nobody” respects women more than he does, but some Moab residents might beg to differ. An estimated 250 to 300 people participated on Jan. 21 in the biggest of two rallies in Moab to voice their concerns about the new president and his policies, especially as they relate to women. The Women’s March was one of hundreds of similar events that took place across the country and around the world in the days and hours after Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. Like their counterparts elsewhere, many local marchers wore hand-sewn pink “pussyhats” – a visual reference to Trump’s now-infamous Access Hollywood comments in 2005 that “stars” like himself can get away with grabbing women by their genitalia. But the scope of the march ultimately went beyond the issue of women’s rights, and focused on the new administration’s stances on everything from climate change to race relations, education, jobs and the economy.
GCSD promotes mental health resources
School officials worked closely with mental health counselors to raise awareness about the wide range of resources that are available to local residents, as the community mourned the loss of Grand County Middle School student Lily McClish, who died on Jan. 26 by suicide. Staff members at each of the district’s schools met with students last week to inform them of Lily’s death, while the district’s full-time counselors visited the middle school and high school to help meet the needs of students and staff members. Kim Myers, a suicide prevention coordinator with the Utah Department of Human Services, said she wanted the many students who have been affected by Lily’s death to know that they’re surrounded by loving and caring adults.
Council splits 3-2 in favor of Lionsback agreement
After years of delays, the developers of the previously approved Lionsback Resort have the City of Moab’s official blessings to move forward with the project. Moab City Council members voted 3-2 on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to approve a zoning status agreement with project developer LB Moab Land Co. LLC and Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). The agreement aims to resolve a dispute over amendments to the project, which would be developed in phases on SITLA-owned property off Sand Flats Road. It now includes more clearly defined plans for a 50-unit, 150-room resort hotel and – at full build-out – 188 residential lots, as well as 18 employee/workforce housing units. Moab City Attorney Chris McAnany informed the council in 2016 that the agency would agree to city jurisdiction on one condition: It wanted the city to classify changes it’s seeking as “minor” amendments, subject only to staff-level review, and not a more comprehensive public review. The city attorney maintained that the amendments are a major change because, under his interpretation of the plan, the size of the hotel has tripled, from a 50-room casita-style hotel, to a 150-room hotel.
Two GCHS students killed in car accident
Authorities in San Juan County say that alcohol and excessive speed were contributing factors in a fatal March 5 accident that claimed the lives of two local students. Grand County High School students Taylor Bryant, 14, and Connor Denney, 16, were killed when the 2003 Subaru Impreza they were traveling in rolled over several times on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road just south of Ken’s Lake, ejecting both of them. Two other students – Daniel McCrary and Tierney DeMille – were also injured in the crash, as was driver Gage Moore, who was later convicted of two counts of automobile homicide. A heavily intoxicated Moore picked the other students up on March 4, when they asked him for a ride home. But instead of doing so, Moore took them on a ride that ended as he drove down the La Sal Loop Road at speeds that reached up to 120 miles per hour. At the time that he lost control of the vehicle and it rolled multiple times, he was traveling somewhere between 60 and 80 miles per hour, according to estimates from law enforcement. None of the four teens that Moore picked up had been drinking alcohol.
Council OKs permit for Mill Creek Drive apartments
The developers of a major apartment complex off Mill Creek Drive can move forward with the next phase of their plans for the 196-unit project. Moab City Council members voted 4-1 on March 28 to approve a conditional use permit that allows housing on the ground floors of the planned 10-building, three-story complex at 1780 E. Mill Creek Drive. Rani Derasary voted against the majority. Council member Tawny Knuteson-Boyd said she has no illusions that the Mill Creek project alone can solve Moab’s affordable housing woes. But she hailed the developers for their commitment to placing deed restrictions on about 38 of the project’s units, which will increase the availability of affordable housing, while providing basic facilities for some families, she said. But Spanish Valley Drive resident Mike Toninelli – the project’s closest neighbor – said the planned height of the three-story buildings remains an issue. “Probably one of the big things is it’s all uphill for me, which makes a 40-foot building much, much taller,” Toninelli said.
Lionsback agreement faces lawsuit
A month after the Moab City Council approved a zoning status agreement that seemed to clear the way for the Lionsback Resort development, critics of the project filed a lawsuit in district court claiming that the council’s decision was illegal. The agreement classified changes made to the project since its original proposal as “minor” amendments not subject to a comprehensive public review. But the plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend that the changes should have been classified as “major” amendments, as city attorney Chris McAnany had recommended.
Ray Tibbetts remembered
Former Grand County Commissioner Ray Tibbetts, who died on April 4, was remembered as a leading figure of the Sagebrush Rebellion, a movement that sought state control over public lands and land management decisions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His family called Tibbetts a “keeper of the land” who believed in the concept of multiple-use management, along with the need for a diverse local economy. But he was just as instrumental in the creation of Canyonlands National Park in 1964, taking several high-ranking federal government officials, including former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, on helicopter tours of canyon country to show them places that he felt needed to be protected. “Ray deserves all of the respect he can get in this county because he’s done so much for it,” former Grand County Commissioner Ron Steele said. “We lost a real icon in this part of the world.”
Sewer connection ban expires
Thanks to interim wastewater treatment measures – and milder than average winter temperatures – the City of Moab’s six-month moratorium on new sewer connections for commercial developments expired this spring. The Moab City Council declined to renew the moratorium during its April 25 meeting, and Moab City Manager David Everitt said the ban would disappear. A majority of council members voted in November 2016 to impose the moratorium, following periodic violations of state and federal water quality standards at the city’s aging wastewater treatment plant. However, based on the plant’s performance, Everitt and other city officials suggested that a continuation of the moratorium is no longer necessary. The plant is nearing the end of its lifespan: Salt Lake City-based Alder Construction is building a new regional treatment facility on nearby property.
Crane out, Stroder in as school superintendent
After five years on the job as Grand County’s top school official, Dr. Scott Crane stepped down on June 30 to take the reins as the executive director of the Southeast Education Service Center (SESC) in Price. Crane joined the school district in the summer of 2012, following a long career with the Blackfoot School District in Idaho. The Grand County Board of Education voted on June 6 to hire JT Stroder as Crane’s replacement. Stroder previously served as the Gardiner Public Schools superintendent in Montana.
Zinke visit stirs questions about Bears Ears’ future
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke fulfilled an early promise and toured southeastern Utah during a two-day “listening tour” of San Juan County in early May. The country’s top federal land management official had a chance to see the area’s Ancestral Puebloan ruins, colorful sandstone canyons and forested uplands for himself during visits to Cedar Mesa, The Nature Conservancy’s Dugout Ranch and Bears Ears National Monument’s namesake buttes just west of Blanding. With little time to explore the vast area on foot – or even by car – Zinke also joined San Juan County officials on a helicopter flight that took him from Goosenecks State Park in the south to the monument’s far northern boundary near Dead Horse Point State Park. The visit followed President Donald Trump’s issuance of an executive order that directed Zinke’s department to review national monuments greater than 100,000 acres that have established since 1996, including the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument.
Salt Lake County sheriff named new police chief
The City of Moab found its next police chief. Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison appointed then-Salt Lake County Sheriff and Unified Police Chief Jim Winder to the job on May 30. He comes to the job with more than 30 years of experience leading public safety institutions in Salt Lake County, and Moab city officials said that he brings a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and energy to the position. “Jim is the consummate public safety expert with decades of relevant experience,” Sakrison said. “His approach to policing is exactly what Moab needs right now, and I am heartened to know he will lead our department into the future.”
County says time-out on new B&Bs
In a special meeting on May 30, the Grand County Council voted 6-1 to impose a six- month moratorium on the issuance of new bed and breakfast (B&B) permits outside of the overnight accommodations overlay zone. The action came in response to citizen complaints of excessive noise and traffic generated by a proliferation of new bed and breakfasts that many say are operating more like nightly rentals. Council chair Jaylyn Hawks, a B&B owner herself, voted against the measure. The council received dozens of negative letters on the topic, and more than 100 people signed a petition urging the council to take action. Council member Greg Halliday said that he had received numerous complaints on the subject and that the situation was “out of control.”
Zinke calls for cuts to Bears Ears
America’s top federal land manager called on President Donald Trump to reduce the size of the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, although he hasn’t yet offered any specific ideas about what the redrawn boundaries should look like. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued an interim report in June which suggests that Trump should revise the monument’s size and shape through the “appropriate authority,” including the federal Antiquities Act of 1906. He also suggested that Congress should take action to protect some areas within the new monument, while giving tribal nations the power to co-manage designated cultural sites within a revised Bears Ears site.
Baird resigns from county council
Just hours after hotel owner Colin Fryer referenced “war” with Grand County Council member Chris Baird during a contentious June 6 public hearing, Baird resigned from the position he’s held since January 2015. In his resignation letter, Baird stated that “(his) vision for this community seems to have fallen out-of-line with the community’s vision.” He also cited obligations to his family, noting that he only has a few more years left to spend with his kids before they are “all grown up and gone.” The public hearing centered around Baird’s proposed resolution endorsing legislative changes to the Utah code that governs how certain revenues from the 4.25 percent Transient Room Tax (TRT) can be spent.
Remembering Jeff Flanders
Jeff Flanders, who served as KZMU’s general manager for 16 of the station’s 25 years to date until his retirement in 2014, died on June 16. He first stepped forward as a board member and volunteer who was willing to do anything – even if it was something as mundane as paying the bills or checking the mail. His civic spirit reached far beyond the station, to his involvement with the Grand County Education Foundation’s annual adult spelling bee that raises funds for local schools, to the Moab Senior Games and the Moab Golf Club. “He was KZMU to most people, and I think he always will be,” KZMU DJ Eric Johanson said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who’s done as much for the station as he did.”
Pat Trim joins county council
Grand County Council members voted 4-2 on June 27, to appoint Pat Trim to former council member Chris Baird’s District 1 seat; Evan Clapper and Greg Halliday voted against Curtis Wells’ motion. Wells said that the greatest need and biggest hole left in Baird’s absence was the former council member’s budgetary knowledge and fiscal experience. As the council heads into a crucial budgeting period, Wells said that Trim’s financial know-how could come in handy. Trim, who moved to Moab about two-and-a-half years ago to be closer to his grown-up children, has worked as Moab Regional Hospital’s director of materials management since February 2016.
Moore pleads guilty to two counts of automobile homicide
A Moab teenager charged with automobile homicide and other offenses announced his attention in late July to plead guilty to the two main second-degree felony charges against him. Gage Moore, 18, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in Monticello on July 21, and agreed to plead guilty to two class A misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, defense attorney Walter Bugden said. Under the terms of a plea agreement with San Juan County prosecutors, the remaining charges against him – including second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child and two third-degree felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs involving injury to another person – were ultimately dismissed. The charges against him stem from a fatal March 5 car accident near Ken’s Lake that claimed the lives of 14-year-old Taylor Bryant and 16-year-old Connor Denney of Moab. Local students Daniel McCrary and Tierney DeMille Dawson – along with Moore himself – were also injured in the crash; Tierney has since undergone extensive surgeries to repair severe damage to her body.
Moore sentenced to one year in jail for car fatalities
Gage Moore was sentenced on Aug. 14 to one year in the San Juan County Jail. Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson announced the sentence shortly after the 18-year-old Moab resident pleaded guilty to two second-degree felony charges of automobile homicide, as well as two class A misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment. After hearing emotional testimony from the victims’ families, Judge Anderson imposed but then suspended Moore’s prison sentences and other penalties, and instead placed Moore on probation for three years following the teen’s release from jail. The judge’s ruling drew audible gasps inside the courtroom, followed by anguished screams in the courthouse lobby, as one audience member after another stood up from the courtroom pews and left the chambers. Honey Hope Dawson, whose daughter Tierney was still undergoing surgeries for the injuries she sustained in the incident, later told the media that she believes Moore “got away” with murder. Prosecutors said law enforcement officials found sufficient evidence that Moore was under the influence of alcohol to a degree that made him too impaired to be operating a motor vehicle. Based on eyewitness testimony and DNA evidence, they said there was also conclusive proof that Moore was the only person that could have been driving the vehicle at the time of the crash.
SkyWest wins next air service contract
Welcome back, SkyWest Airlines. Beginning March 1, 2018, the St. George company is tentatively set to resume passenger airline service between Canyonlands Field Airport and Denver International Airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced in late August that it awarded a two-year contract to the company for Essential Air Service to and from Moab through late February 2020. SkyWest is planning to operate 12 round-trip flights per week to Denver, or two flights per day from Thursdays through Mondays, and one flight each day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
County officials celebrate reopening of jail
After nearly a year conducting law enforcement without a local jail facility while the Grand County Jail was under renovation, Grand County Sheriff’s deputies and staff celebrated the jail’s reopening with a public open house on Sept. 7. Five years in the making, the $5.5 million renovation was initiated as the outdated jail experienced flooding from leaks in the roof, as well as compounding safety and comfort concerns due to outdated and flawed design facility-wide.
Tourists injured in boat crash
Twenty-eight passengers and one operator were on board a Canyonlands by Night and Day boat when it experienced a mechanical failure, causing it to crash into the rocks along the riverbank just below Kane Creek Boulevard on Sept. 8. A Utah State Parks boating inspector determined that the boat’s starboard jet steering mechanism failed while it was traveling at an estimated speed of about 25 miles per hour, according to Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal. He said that passengers’ injuries ranged between mild and serious, although none of them were life-threatening. Moab Regional Hospital subsequently treated 17 people, and one patient was later transferred via ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. Neal gave credit to the many different entities that responded to the incident. “Everybody helped out,” he said. “It was a pretty well-coordinated rescue.”
School grades under fire from local educators
The Utah State Board of Education gave Grand County Middle School a “B” for its performance during the 2016-2017 school year, while Helen M. Knight Elementary and Moab Charter School received “C” grades, and Grand County High School received a “D.” At the Grand County School District level, the state education board reported that 44 percent of students were proficient in the area of language arts, while 35 percent were deemed proficient in math and 42 percent were proficient in science. Forty percent of Moab Charter School students were found to be proficient in language arts, while 30 percent were proficient in math and 48 percent were proficient in science, the state board reported. Helen M. Knight Elementary Principal Taryn Kay, who also serves as the Grand County School District’s testing coordinator, cautioned that the results beyond the middle school don’t necessarily mirror student progress within the district. If anything, Kay said, they present a warped image of student achievement.
Health department on verge of fracturing apart
In October, the Southeastern Utah Health Department was in danger of splintering apart, and if two member counties had moved forward with plans to drop out, officials said the disintegration would have had major impacts on Grand County. Carbon County commissioners filed a 90-day notice of intent to withdraw from the department, and commissioners in Emery County then signaled that they were interested in following suit. At the same time, leaders in Carbon County discussed the possibility of forming a joint health department with Emery County, following reports of personality conflicts on the Southeast Utah Board of Health. Together, the three counties share major costs for departmental positions, including a health officer, a nursing director and an epidemiologist, according to Southeastern Utah District Health Department Health Director Brady Bradford.
Federal board renames Negro Bill Canyon
It will always be “Negro Bill Canyon” to some longtime local residents, but as of Tuesday, Oct. 12, the scenic recreation area northeast of Moab is officially known as “Grandstaff Canyon.” The U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted 12-0 in early October to formally rename the canyon after William Grandstaff, an African American settler who briefly lived in the area from 1877 to 1881. One board member declined to vote on the matter.
$70 peak-season fee proposed for Arches, Canyonlands
The National Park Service announced in October that it is proposing to charge a $70 entrance fee for non-pass holders at Arches, Canyonlands and 15 other national parks during a five-month peak-season. In the event that the agency approves the fee hike, it would take effect on May 1, 2018 at the affected parks in Utah. Under the agency’s proposal, the peak season for each of the 17 parks would be defined as its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation. The proposed fee hike comes as President Donald J. Trump’s administration seeks a 13 percent cut to the National Park Service’s budget for the current federal fiscal year, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. If it’s enacted, the association says the cut would be the largest reduction to the agency’s budget since World War II.
Arches proposes new entry system
The National Park Service announced a proposal that would require visitors to book advance reservations in order to enter Arches National Park during peak hours between March and October. Under the proposal, the agency would set a daily entrance cap of 2,006 vehicles between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. – when park visitation is typically at its highest – in order to address the impacts that park officials tie to growing visitor numbers. Southeast Utah Group Superintendent Kate Cannon said the proposal aims to address vehicular traffic and parking congestion problems that affect visitors’ access and enjoyment, as well as resource conditions at the park. But Grand County Republican Party chair Jeramy Day, who works in the local hospitality industry, believes the proposal runs counter to the agency’s mission to promote visitation.
Niehaus is next mayor; Duncan, Guzman-Newton to join council
Goodbye, Mayor Dave. Hello, Emily Niehaus. A majority of city voters who cast their ballots in the 2017 general election chose Niehaus as their pick to replace outgoing Mayor Dave Sakrison, while keeping the five-member Moab City Council in progressives’ hands. According to unofficial Nov. 7 election results from the Moab City Recorder’s Office, Niehaus won 962 votes in the race for mayor. In the races for two open seats on the city council, Poison Spider Bicycles co-owner Karen Guzman-Newton won 1,096 votes and former Grand County Planning Commission member Mike Duncan received 926 votes. For an odd-numbered year when there was not a high-profile presidential contest on the ballot, the election generated strong interest among local residents. Just under three out of four active registered voters in the city limits – 1,783 out of 2,402 – cast their ballots.
San Juan planning for up to 6,000 people in Spanish Valley
A new plan is shifting future growth projections in San Juan County upward significantly, after officials secured millions of dollars in grants and loans to develop new water and sewer infrastructure that is expected to fuel development in southern Spanish Valley. San Juan County hired Salt Lake City-based Landmark Design to come up with a master plan that guides future growth within a 15-square-mile area, which could eventually be home to as many as 6,000 new residents. Under the current vision for the plan, Landmark Design Project Planner and Principal Planner Mark Vlasic said, 40 to 60 percent of the land would be preserved as open space, and future planning efforts would carefully consider the natural environment – especially floodplains and waterways. Overall, the design team envisions a wide range of densities in Spanish Valley to encourage the development of more affordable housing, while taking transportation and access into account, as well.
“An omnipresent force”
Ken Davey, who died on Sunday, Dec. 3, at age 64 due to complications from pneumonia, was many things to many people, including the dean of Moab’s press corps and an economic development specialist with two local government entities. Away from the spotlight, Moab resident Emily Campbell remembered Davey as an “omnipresent force” in local residents’ lives, helping those like her find their way as they relocated to Moab. “I know that he made a difference in so many people’s lives, in small, small ways, as well as big ways,” Campbell said. Davey built up his lengthy credentials in Moab – first as a reporter for The Times-Independent and Channel 6 News for 13 years, and then as an economic development specialist with Grand County and the City of Moab. He continued in the latter position until September 2015, when a previous city council eliminated his position.
Trump’s cuts to Bears Ears anger, thrill residents
President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Dec. 4 that dramatically reduces Bears Ears National Monument to about one-seventh of its initial size. The proclamation splits the monument into two widely separated pieces that total just under 202,000 acres: The 129,980-acre Shash Jáa Unit is centered largely around the Bears Ears Buttes west of Blanding, and the 71,896-acre Indian Creek Unit is near Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District. At the same time, it specifically removes the Cedar Mesa and Elk Ridge areas northwest of Bluff, as well as Lockhart Basin southwest of Moab, from the monument’s boundaries. The Navajo Nation and other tribes, as well as state and national environmental groups, filed suit the same day to prevent them from taking effect. Monticello resident Kim Henderson said that Trump’s action corrects what many San Juan County residents perceive as federal overreach under the former Obama administration. In Grand County, however, many residents have been sharply critical of the Trump administration’s move to undo his predecessor’s conservation legacy. “I think it’s a bad idea, because those areas need protection,” Moab resident Brett Bentley said.