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Letters to the editor

By Bob Turri

To all levels of government

We who live here in San Juan County Utah are fed up with our Federal Government's involvement in our lives. For the past 30 years we have been plagued with the Feds intruding into our lives. It seems that certain federal agencies spend all their time trying to figure out new ways to deprive us of our uses of the public lands including the opportunities to pursue a livelihood The economy of San Juan County, which at one time depended mostly on revenue from the development and production of natural resources, fings itself now struggling to meet its commitments.

This all started about 30 years ago after the passage of the Federal Land Management and Policy Act of 1976. The act provided a provision for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to identify to Congress lands suited to be retained as wilderness lands. The BLM completed this task and designated some areas as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). These lands are managed under the provisions of the Wilderness Act, until Congress either recognizes them as wilderness or releases them back to multiple use management.

Since then BLM has revised their Resource Management Plans and designated more acreage that has eliminated or greatly restricted use of the public land. Some of these designations you may recognize, such as primitive areas, areas of critical environmental concern, class one and two visual resource areas, scenic river corridors (and it doesn't not even have to be rivers), critical wildlife areas, critical cultural resource areas, areas with wilderness characteristics, and others I have failed to remember. On top of all this we have two National Monuments, a National Recreation area and a National Park. There is not too much left for multiple use.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar has turned out to be San Juan County peoples number one enemy. He is still coming up with ways of getting more of San Juan County out of multiple use management and into wilderness. He never ever stops trying to figure ways of re-inventorying and identifying lands for wilderness.

Several years ago I wrote a paper charging Secretary Salazar with several violations of his own regulations and Federal Laws. I truly believe Salazar should have been made to answer for many of his actions. In 2008, shortly after completion of six BLM Resource Management Plans here in Utah, Salazar withdrew many of the oil and gas lease parcels, that had been approved in those new plans and were being offered for lease. He did so claiming they had to be re-evaluated against other values.

This is a process that should have been done in the Resource Management Plan development. By doing this he violated his own regulations and the Federal Land Management and Policy Act. He can not make those kind of changes without first amending the plans. He has closed a very large piece of San Juan County from oil and gas lease offers until he can complete a Master Leasing Plan. They are predicting the process will take five years to complete. It appears there will be more acres eliminated from possible County revenue.

Currently we have been informed by the Department Of Interior that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the Gunnison Sage Grouse, found here in San Juan County, on the rare and endangered species list. That is bad enough but they also propose to list 145,500 acres as critical habitat. At present 95 percent of these acres are private owned lands. Although the Fish and Wildlife Service claims that this is not a taking of private property there will certainly be negative impacts to those land owners. The Fish and Wildlife Service will dictate what those land owners can and can not do on their property.

In a hearing held in Monticello, a couple week ago, over 200 very agitated people showed up. The Fish and Wildlife Service presentation was poor and they did not express much certainty as to how this proposal would or would not impact private land owners or the county of San Juan. The land owners already are experiencing negative results from this proposal. Oil and gas companies will not buy their mineral leases for fear of the restrictions that will surely be placed on those lands. The value of the property will drop, since no one wants land with restrictions on it. The land owner will, however, pay the property taxes.

The last thing I want to discuss is a petition presented to our president by certain interest groups to create a National Monument of 1.4 million acres, called The Greater Canyonlands. This petition encompasses several Utah Counties but the bulk of the acreage is in San Juan County. The petition calls for protection of all these acres. Protection from what?

Another national monument only means more lands out of productive use and less revenue for San Juan County. No where in this nation would the people tolerate the interference in their lives that is being experienced by those of us who live in San Juan County.

We know that certain interest groups with deep pockets and a goal of turning San Juan County into a vast wilderness area, are influencing much of these Federal actions. As you can see from the information identified above the economy and future of San Juan County is slowly but surely being destroyed.

There may not be a lot of people in San Juan County but we are U.S. citizens with the same constitutional rights as everyone else. As major players in the affairs of our government we are asking you to help us preserve our rights, and rid San Juan County of the negative influences presented by our Federal Government here in San Juan County.

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