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Published February 9, 2013 1:01 am

Let's talk about how to protect area
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We believe most people in Utah don't want a repeat of the bull-in-a-china-shop approach former President Bill Clinton used when he designated a massive tract in southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996.

But the Greater Canyonlands region adjacent to Canyonlands National Park deserves to be the subject of a discussion about how to preserve this scenic part of southeast Utah for future generations to enjoy.

That's why a resolution introduced by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, asking the federal government to take steps to protect the 1.5 million acres around the national park should be approved. It has been sent to an interim committee, but it should not die there.

The resolution pointedly does not ask President Barack Obama to follow Clinton's model and invoke the Antiquities Act, which Obama could do. Instead it proposes to initiate a process of public dialogue on the best way to protect the red rock arches and bridges, the canyons, mesas and spires and archaeological and cultural sites of this beautiful region.

The resolution, supported by the Democratic caucus in the Legislature, is similar to a request from the national Outdoor Industry Association. The sportsmen, hikers, bikers, backpackers, kayakers and other recreationists agree with conservation organizations that recreation is the "highest and best use" for this fragile area intersected by the Green and Colorado rivers.

While the economic benefits of outdoor recreation are huge, San Juan County officials rightly worry over how they can continue to provide services to the half-million visitors who now come to see Canyonlands National Park. Only about 8 percent of the county's land is private and even possibly tax-generating.

Extractive industries see potential for a potash mine and potential tar sands development in parts of the area included in Dabakis' SJR10.

So it's important that those in San Juan, as well as Grand, Wayne, Emery and Garfield counties, which would also be affected, be included in discussions.

Greater Canyonlands now belongs to all Americans, but those who live near it are most directly impacted by what happens to it. It deserves to be protected from development that would ruin its spectacular beauty and value for recreation. But the conversation over just how the protection is applied should include local residents, state and federal government, and the public.

All their interests are valid.




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