SALT LAKE CITY — Five conservation and environmental organizations are asking Gov. Gary Herbert to engage in a public dialogue about the possibility of creating another national monument in Utah.
The idea of such a proposal has drawn vehement objections from prominent Utah Republicans, with concern over such a designation by President Barack Obama fueling a hasty trip to the nation's capital by Herbert.
Multiple other local governments in potentially impacted areas have lambasted the notion, with the Utah Association of Counties coming out with its own statement panning the idea.
Still, the organizations — the Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Grand Canyon Trust and Great Old Broads for Wilderness — penned a letter this week to Herbert, urging him to "support the creation of a transparent, fair, public process" for the creation of the Greater Canyonlands National Monument on 1.4 million acres in southeastern Utah.
The letter was copied to the entire Utah congressional delegation, as well as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the White House's Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley.
The groups are reacting to a mid-November letter to Obama from Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz in which they say those members of the delegation called for a "public process" to discuss the future of the Greater Canyonlands area.
“We support the call for executive action to protect Greater Canyonlands. And like those members of the Utah delegation, we also support the creation of a transparent, fair, public process to achieve this," the letter said. "Such a process is something your office should encourage."
The letter urges that process to include public hearings along the Wasatch Front and in communities closest to the proposed monument, which would encircle areas adjacent to Canyonlands National Park, Bureau of Land Management roadless areas and U.S. Forest Service land in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
The public dialogue, the groups added, "must invite meaningful input from the general public and all stakeholders, including conservationists, scientists, tribal interests, recreationists, and the business and development community. It must include an experienced, credible and neutral facilitator.”
In its opposition letter, the Utah Association of Counties said the proposal for the new monument that surfaced in November makes a mockery of representative government.
"No public lands proposal that ignores, subverts or marginalizes Utah's representative governmental process deserves the time of day," the association's letter reads. "County leaders and the constituents who elected them deserve better."
According to the conservation and environmental groups, such a new monument would include 10,000-year-old archeological sites and Utah landmarks such as Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, White Canyon, Fiddler Butte, Robbers Roost, Lockhart Basin and the Dirty Devil River.
Herbert's office said late Friday it was unclear if the letter had been received.
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