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Eastern Utah Public Lands Initiative

The following information was released by the San Juan County Commission to provide summary information regarding the County's participation in the Public Lands Initiative.

In 2013 Congressman Rob Bishop (later joined by Congressman Jason Chaffetz) introduced a Public Lands Initiative (PLI) for eastern Utah.  The goal of the PLI was legislation that would resolve long-standing land use controversies and give some certainty to Federal land management issues in the future.  The Congressmen invited county commissioners in several eastern Utah counties to develop PLI proposals for their respective counties that could be incorporated in the eastern Utah legislation.


San Juan County’s Participation in the Public Lands Initiative


The San Juan County Commission fully supports the Public Lands Initiative and the goals articulated by Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz.  In developing San Juan County’s proposal for the PLI, the County Commission had the following objectives:


The San Juan County proposal would be developed from the ground up with a focus on local participation.

To develop the proposal, the Commission established a Public Lands Council composed of county residents representing various interests.  This Council met many times over an 18 month period and developed three proposals.  In conjunction with the Council, the Commission held open houses at various locations in the County and published information about the PLI process and proposals in local media and on the County’s website.  County residents were encouraged to submit comments on these proposals.  Additional meetings were held with Native American groups to discuss their concerns before the Council settled on a final proposal on June 15, 2015.


The San Juan County proposal would represent the wide range of interests and viewpoints held by citizens of the County.

Lands Council membership included interests representing minerals, cultural resources, recreation, Native American concerns, travel management, livestock grazing, wildlife and wilderness.  Individuals with special interests or knowledge were invited to participate in Council meetings as needed.

The San Juan County proposal would balance natural and cultural resource preservation with natural resource development.

The County Commission and residents of the County have strong ties to, and feelings about the land and landscapes of the County.  Conserving and preserving these natural and cultural resources is an important priority.

The Commissioners also recognize the importance of economic development and economic stability for County residents.  A significant part of San Juan County’s economy is tied to the development of natural resources in the County.  San Juan County’s proposal strikes a careful balance between preservation for the future and responsible development to support economic stability.

The San Juan County proposal would insure greater local involvement in federal lands management.

The County Commission feels strongly that land management is enhanced (improved) when the State, County and Native American tribes are involved in management discussions and decision making.  The County’s PLI proposal would mandate that federal land management agencies encourage greater local participation and give credence to local concerns.

San Juan County’s Proposal

The final Lands Council proposal was discussed at length in open County Commission meetings.  The County Commission ultimately voted to adopt and submit the Council’s proposal to Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz.  San Juan County’s  proposal includes:


2 National Conservation Areas (NCAs including wilderness) 703,047 acres

Wilderness areas (within and outside NCAs) 536,896 acres

Indian Creek Recreation Area  10,470 acres


Energy Zone designation (high mineral potential areas).

Transfer of federal mineral rights on McCracken Extension to Utah Navajo Trust Fund.

Enhanced coordination with State, County and Tribes in management of federal lands.

Recognition of current federal agency transportation plans with adjustments to accommodate County concerns.

Land exchanges and transfers to meet local needs.  

For a comment form please click here.
Email comments to lands-bill-comments@sanjuancounty.org


Additional Information about the Public Lands Initiative

Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz are sponsoring a Public Lands Initiative which would include the development of a lands bill to be introduced in the US Congress. The purpose of this action is to resolve some of the long-standing issues over federal land management in Eastern Utah.

For answers from the Congressmen of frequently asked questions, please click here.

The San Juan County Commission is participating in the process of developing the lands bill.  The bill provides an excellent opportunity for San Juan County residents to have a say in how federal lands in the County are managed.

Potential benefits of a lands bill include the following:

  * Energy zones where mineral and energy development are given higher priority.
  * Land exchange to consolidate ownership of lands with high development potential.
  * More say in how federal lands in the County are managed.
  * County ownership of Cal Black Airport.
  * Enhanced local management of Hole in the Rock trail.
  * Municipal ownership of adjacent BLM lands where needed.

San Juan County Lands Council

In January of this year the County Commission asked a number of local residents to serve on a Lands Council charged with developing ideas for the lands bill.  The Lands Council participants represent a broad range of land management interests.   In the course of meeting frequently over the past several months, the Council has developed a number of alternatives for a possible San Juan County lands bill.

Lands Council Participants

Commissioner Phil Lyman - Blanding (Lands Council Chairman)
Tim Chamberlain - Blanding
Steve Deeter - La Sal
Josh Ewing - Bluff
Vaughn Hadenfeldt - Bluff
Marie Holiday - Monument Valley
Shaye Holiday - Monument Valley
Brent Johansen - Blanding
Mark Maryboy - Montezuma Creek
Grayson Redd - Monticello
Heidi Redd - Dugout Ranch, Indian Creek
Shane Shumway - Blanding
Stefnee Turk - Blanding
Todd Westcott - Monticello

Comments from Lands Council Participants

Commissioner Phil Lyman, Chairman of the Lands Council

"San Juan County has long been at the forefront of public lands issues. At one point our mineral value made San Juan County the 2nd most highly valued in the State. We were Utah’s largest producer of Oil and Natural Gas. We produced more Uranium than any other county. Only Salt Lake County exceeded us in value due to the presence of Kennecott Copper. Times have changed; markets change, operations evolve, and discoveries are made in other places. These developments have an impact for the better of for the worse, but there is one shift that has certainly impacted our values negatively and that is the proliferation of federal regulations coupled with an appetite for “protection” on the part of federal land management agencies.

The board of County Commissioners has responded to Congressman Bishop and Congressman Chaffetz’ request to present a proposal they could include in their multi-county Lands Bill.  We have begun the long process. We take full responsibility for that process and for its outcome. While politicians in Washington may place weight on the proposals from special interest groups, we do not. If and when we make a proposal to Congressman Bishop for inclusion in this his proposal, it will be based on the needs of OUR Citizens. Please be vocal and articulate in your suggestions, yet courteous of others who may disagree with you. As always, thank you for your willingness to get involved!"
Commissioner Phil Lyman
San Juan County
cell:  435-459-2800    fax:  435-678-3229
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Phil.Lyman.SanJuanCountyCommissioner 

Heidi Redd wrote the following about the Lands Bill process:

"I fear that if we don't participate in the lands bill process as a County, we will be left with what we're given, which may not be to any of our liking.  The County members of this council have debated the pros and cons of all of our suggestions.  We hope you will consider them with an open mind."   For Heidi's complete comments, please click here.

Josh Ewing representing Friends of Cedar Mesa

"Friends of Cedar Mesa was honored to participate in the Lands Council created by the San Juan County Commissioners. This diverse group of ranchers, ATV riders, miners, hunters, archaeological enthusiasts, and local access advocates provided hundreds of hours of volunteer time discussing, researching and debating public lands issues. The respectful, collaborative and open-minded spirit of these discussions are a credit to what our community can accomplish if we work together and find common ground."
For Josh's complete comments please click here.

Following is a statement from Lands Council member Stefnee Turk

"As a Council, we have met together often in the last year.  We have given of our free time to participate in this democratic process, a process by which people from differing views, beliefs and backgrounds come together.  Our great country was founded on such democratic processes, and it has been a pleasure to participate in one. Although we disagree on a lot of things, we are respectful to one another and recognize that we are all citizens of the county.   It is key to understand that we are just a council, and that is merely what we have done.  We talked, a lot.  We disagreed, a lot.  However, we also agreed on a few things.  We do not lay claim to making any of the decisions in this process, and it is far from over.  The County has taken what we talked about and made what they call “layers” on a map.  What they developed might be great, and it might be terrible.  Maybe our time was wasted, or maybe it was used to benefit others.  That is up to you, the citizens of San Juan County to decide.  Attend a meeting; familiarize yourself with the process, the “plans” and implications of each of those things.   I urge each and every citizen of this county to get involved.  Now is the time to let your voice be heard."

Lands Council member Steve Deeter commented as follows:

"All of us that were asked to serve on the Lands Council donated our time and travel expenses to attend these meetings.  We came together with varied agendas.  We had disagreements and agreements and we learned to stretch ourselves and consider the ideas of others and step outside of our own paradigms.  This wasn’t always easy for any of us especially me.  I am grateful to have been asked to serve on this committee as I was able to make new friends."
For Steve's complete statement, please click here.

Public Comment and Participation

The County Commission wants your ideas regarding the lands bill process and the Lands Council proposals.  Six open houses are scheduled throughout the County to present information about the lands bill and to solicit your comments.  Your comments will be used by the County Commissioners to develop a lands bill proposal that represents local interests and will result in positive benefits for the residents of San Juan County.  You will have the opportunity to make written and verbal comments at the open houses.  Please consider attending.

If you are not able to attend an open house you may send your comments directly to San Juan County.  Please see the Comments section below for more information.

Open House Schedule

Monument Valley High School - Monday, October 27, 7:00 PM
Blanding Arts and Events Center USU Eastern Campus - Tuesday, October 28, 7:00 PM
Bluff Community Center - Wednesay, October 29, 7:00 PM
Monticello High School - Wednesday, November 5, 7:00 PM
La Sal Community Center - Thursday, November 6, 7:00 PM
Aneth Chapter House
- Monday, November 10, 7:00 PM

Lands Council Alternatives

To serve as a foundation for public discussion, the Lands Council developed three alternatives.  Each alternative proposes Congressional designations of National Conservation Areas (NCA) and/or Wilderness for various areas of the County  The following is a brief explanation of each of these designations.

National Conservation Area (NCA) – An area designated by Congress to conserve, protect and restore nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific values. These areas are typically withdrawn from mineral entry (new mining claims and oil and gas leasing). Other traditional multiple uses are usually allowed if those uses are consistent with the conservation and protection of the outstanding values in the area.

Wilderness – An area which appears to have been affected primarily by nature where the evidence of man is substantially unnoticeable and set aside to preserve its natural character. Only Congress can designate wilderness. Wilderness areas are withdrawn from mineral entry (new mining claims and oil and gas leasing), livestock grazing shall continue, motorized and mechanized uses are prohibited and fuel wood gathering is not allowed.

For more detailed information about activities allowed in Wilderness and NCAs, please click here.


Maps of the Lands Council alternatives as well as a variety of other supplemental maps and information will be available at the open houses.  You can download the maps presented at the open houses using the links below.  These are large pdf (Adobe Acrobat) files and may take some time to download.

Lands Council Alternative A, Alternative B and Alternative C June 15, 2015 Proposal
Utah Dine Bikeyah Proposal
San Juan Alliance Proposal
State (SITLA) Lands
San Juan County Energy Zone
San Juan County Travel Plan
Current BLM Management
America's Red Rock Wilderness Act

Detailed Maps:
Indian Creek NCA
Cedar Mesa NCA West
Cedar Mesa NCA East


You will be able to make written or verbal comments at all of the open houses.

You may also email any comments  to nsandberg@sanjuancounty.org.    

Your comments can be mailed to:

San Juan County Commission
P. O. Box 9
Monticello, UT  84535

When mailing or emailing comments, please include your name and address.  The deadline for submitting comments is November 30, 2014.

For a comment form please click here.
Email comments to lands-bill-comments@sanjuancounty.org

Stakeholder Comments and Proposals

Congressman Bishop has received comments and proposals from a number of stakeholders.  We have included brief summaries and links to more information for all the stakeholder proposals that have been provided to the County.  Please click here for this information.

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