Help stop a backroom deal that's bad for Utah wilderness

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White Canyon
White Canyon in San Juan County
copyright Chris Case

The effort to develop wilderness legislation for San Juan County in the heart of Utah’s most iconic redrock country has just taken another twist, and it’s not a good one. Now San Juan County Commissioners seem to be rushing to put a legislative proposal together before Utah Senator Bob Bennett leaves office in January, and their main objective, according to a recent radio interview, is not to protect wilderness, but our worst nightmare: to create more off-road vehicle (ORV) access! This is the worst thing that could happen to the fragile and magnificent wild lands of San Juan County - lands that are full of archeological sites.

Here’s a July 29 report from Utah public radio station KCPW on what San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams told them about developing a San Juan County public lands bill:

“County Commissioner Bruce Adams says the county’s proposal favors opening up the area to everyone, including off-road vehicles, by creating a system of access roads.  The commission hopes the bill is introduced and passed before Bennett leaves office. And he speculates Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could expedite the bill, especially if he loses his race in Nevada.

“If Harry Reid is not elected, and he’s flying on one wing, just like Senator Bennett is flying on one wing, if two lame-duck Senators want to be friendly with each other and do each other a favor and, say, leave a legacy for Bob Bennett, Harry Reid says, ‘Ok, let’s push this through as an honorary thing for Bob Bennett,’” Adams says.”

The brief process begun early this year for creating San Juan County wilderness legislation that involved multiple stakeholders (including the Utah Wilderness Coalition – of which SUWA is a member) was terminated when Senator Bennett lost his re-nomination bid at the Republican State Convention. Now development of San Juan County wilderness legislation has devolved into a rushed effort being cooked up in a back room by county commissioners, without allowing the voices of those who would protect these special places to be heard.
Here’s what you can do - please ask the Obama administration to oppose the San Juan County Commissioners' “pro-ORV, anti-wilderness” wilderness legislation should it get introduced and pushed through in the waning days of this Congress.  The magnificent landscapes of San Juan County deserve meaningful protection and working together we can make certain they get it.


Richard Peterson-Cremer
Legislative Director
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


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