SALT LAKE CITY — The recent shift in political power in Monticello, San Juan County, also means a shift in the position the San Juan County Commission takes on public lands.
On Tuesday, the three-member commission voted to withdraw San Juan County as an intervener in a lawsuit over the Trump administration's decision in 2017 to shrink the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and split it into two units.
The county was an intervener represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation supporting the Trump action in a lawsuit challenging the reduction.
Now it is not.
The political shift happened in the November election that introduced two new members to the commission: Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes, both Navajo.
Coincidentally, leadership of the Navajo Tribe was part of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition that sought the monument designation in 2016.
Maryboy and Grayeyes were elected after a judge's order last year to redraw voting districts on the basis they had been gerrymandered
Rebecca Benally, a conservative Navajo member of the San Juan County Commission, was defeated at the ballot box. Phil Lyman chose not to run after deciding to replace outgoing Utah legislator Mike Noel.
Bruce Adams, the remaining member of the commission opposed to monument designation, voted Tuesday against opting out of the lawsuit.
Instead, he unsuccessfully argued that any decisions the commission makes on Bears Ears should be done only after the issue is put to a public referendum in the next general election.4 comments on this story
"This is a countywide vote that deserves to have the citizens of San Juan County vote on it," he said. "You guys have both said you want transparency."
Adams said he would accept the vote of the people, even if it goes against his personal opposition to the original monument designation.
Maryboy and Grayeyes declined his request to delay a vote to withdraw from the lawsuit without comment.
The proposal to put the Bears Ears issue on the ballot may still come up at a future meeting, but a vote was not taken Tuesday given concerns over public noticing requirements.