Garfield County commissioners are upset over the state's recent agreement with the federal government for a major land trade involving school trust lands. Commissioners say Gov. Mike Leavitt's handling of the trade was similar to President Clinton's surprise announcement of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Commissioners said the trade was negotiated without the involvement of local leaders, a situation similar to the process that created the national monument and raised the ire of Leavitt and the state's congressional delegation. Commission Chairman Louise Liston said commissioners respect the governor's authority to negotiate the trade but were critical of the way it was handled in light of the controversy surrounding the national monument.Liston said the trade, which will increase federal holdings in the county by another 100,000 acres, "for all practical purposes, has turned Garfield County into a federal territory." She noted the county is already heavily impacted by the new monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and large sections of the Dixie National Forest.
Garfield officials are disappointed that the state has chosen to pursue the land trade and refuses to support litigation aimed at overturning the national park's creation.
The agreement will give Garfield County 12,678 acres near the town of Hatch. Commissioner see little benefit in the land, which has no available water resources.
The county has recently completed work on a new master plan created to deal with the impact of the new monument. The county is scheduled to receive $250,000 in federal funds to help mitigate problems associated with the monument's designation. That money should become available this summer.
Mayors in eight communities have been working with commissioners in drafting resolutions pertinent to transportation systems, facilities and utility corridors in and adjacent to the monument.
Liston said most of the $250,000 in federal money will be spent to help gateway communities upgrade master plans and water systems. The commission is working on the 1998 agreement with the Department of Interior for release of the money.
Kane County will receive a like amount because a large portion of the monument lies within the borders of that county. Officials of both counties and communities within them are working together to solve common problems they face in connection with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.