Bears Ears designation “swallows up” lifelong rancher’s water, grazing rights, private property

The federal government should not have this kind of authority over a state and local people.  Especially when the federal government employees are so influenced and guided by well-funded special interest environmental groups.

Open letter by Sandy L. Johnson* (see author’s note below)

Stewards of San Juan County, Utah

Dear Senator Lee,

I appreciate the time and help you have given to San Juan County residents and the State of Utah in opposing the Bears Ears National Monument.  It is my hope that Pres. Trump will repeal the designation because, as you know, existing laws already deal with every issue being advanced by folks pushing for the monument.

If repeal of the monument is not the action taken by the president, then downsizing the monument considerably is vital.  I am a lifetime resident of this county, and my ranch, my home, my water rights, my grazing allotment, my private land are swallowed up in this thing.  I am familiar with the land within the monument.  Here is a list of things I think should be considered:

  1. The Glen Canyon Recreation Area borders the monument on the west.  This area includes hundreds of thousands of acres in San Juan County.
  2. Woodenshoe Canyon was withdrawn from multiple use by a Forest Service bureaucrat some years ago, saying that it was no longer “suitable for grazing”, even though it was grazed for over 100 years along with similar adjacent land.  It is now only accessible to hikers.  This canyon lies within the monument, and is thousands of acres.  There are hundreds of thousands of acres like this already withdrawn from multiple use or in restricted use, such as Dark Canyon primitive area and Kane Gulch/Grand Gulch areas, all within this new monument.  Natural Bridges National Monument was enlarged beyond its original size and lies within this new monument.  There are already hundreds of thousands of acres of land set aside.  There is no need for this monument of 1.35 million acres.
  3. The original Bears Ears proposal was 1.9 million acres.  One of the areas withdrawn from the original proposal was Red Canyon, probably because of all of the mining activity that has gone on there.  If you just go over the north rim of Red Canyon into the White Canyon area, you are in the monument.  Yet, there is the same impact of mining up and down the White Canyon corridor of Highway 95 from the Woodenshoe Buttes to the Colorado River.  There are mines and ore deposits all over this area.  South Cottonwood Canyon just west of Blanding is the same.
  4. Highway 95 runs through the monument.  The Dineros Mine is in Red Canyon, but the access road to and from the mine to haul ore goes north to Highway 95.  Is ore going to be allowed to be hauled on the highway through the monument?  Even if it would be practical to build a road from the mine down into and across Red Canyon and back up the many miles to the Halls Crossing highway, there you are, right back in the monument!
  5. There are telephone towers with access roads on Pushout, Cedar Mesa, and the Moss Backs with repeaters to service the federal government outposts in places like Hite and Natural Bridges.  Other government agencies and the school district also have repeaters in these areas.  These certainly should not be in a monument.
  6. There are 3 full-time homes, 2 seasonal homes, over 1,000 acres of private land, and private water rights just in the Woodenshoe/White Canyon area alone.
  7. Gathering herbs and wood and visiting sacred sites in the Bears Ears area has always been permitted.  No one has been prevented from doing these activities. This may not be the case with monument status attracting crowds of people in the future and creating a need to restrict these traditional activities as well as others.
  8. There are no archeological ruins on the Bears Ears.  Most of the archeological ruins in this entire monument lie on Cedar Mesa. Back in 1991, Mark Maryboy was a San Juan County Commissioner at the time.  He worked with Utah Congressman Bill Orton then in proposing Cedar Mesa as a National Conservation Area in order to preserve and protect archeological sites, other sacred sites, and to gather medicinal herbs and plants.  No mention of the Bears Ears was made by Mr. Maryboy or anyone else at that time.  However, over the 25 years or so, Mr. Maryboy has been associating with environmental groups who, for many years, have been pushing for over a million acres of wilderness in this county, much of which is now in this monument.  As a paid “consultant” to these groups, Mr. Maryboy’s relationship has been beneficial to them both.
  9. These “gatherings” that were held near the Bears Ears the past two summers were nothing more than orchestrated media propaganda and photo opportunities.  Remember, I live out in this area.  There have been no gatherings like this before these and none since.  This is not a traditional event for American Indians or anyone else.  In fact, quite a few of the folks got lost trying to get to the gatherings.  They didn’t know how to get to the Bears Ears, let alone to where the gathering was being held.  I was stopped many times by these lost folks and gave them directions. I won’t even mention the damage they did to the area where they gathered.  But, if my cows did that kind of damage, I would be fined or have my permit canceled.
  10. The federal government should not have this kind of authority over a state and local people.  Especially when the federal government employees are so influenced and guided by well-funded special interest environmental groups.

Again, thank you for your help with this federal land issue and for your work in the senate.  I hope that you can get this monument rescinded or downsized and that my comments on specific areas within the monument are helpful.

Sandy L. Johnson

*Dear readers of Free Range Report,

This site posted a letter from me to Sen. Mike Lee on Feb. 22-23 with a misleading title indicating that I had lost all of my property rights with the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.  As soon as I learned of the misleading title, I contacted the editor of Free Range Report and the title was corrected.  It is important for people to understand that I and my family have lost nothing at this point in time because of the monument, and nothing in my letter to Sen. Lee says that we have.  All of my ranching operating is included within the boundaries of this new monument, home, private property, water rights, grazing allotment, etc., but at this point in time, nothing has been taken from us.  My letter was a statement to my senator to express to him my reasons for opposing the monument and to ask him to help get it rescinded or at least downsized.  If this monument stands, our future is uncertain for sure, but we are doing all that we can to fight it.  All is not lost at this point in time.

I appreciate the efforts of sites like Free Range Report to  help educate folks on federal land issues and the plight of rural America.  For any who have reposted that initial letter with the misleading title, please do all that you can to correct the mistake.

Sandy Johnson

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  1. I hope and pray we can do something to stop the madness of seizing up millions of acres of property by the federal government who has neither the jurisdiction under our Constitution nor the ability to take care of millions of acres they already have set aside.

    None of us who value limited government and the property rights, which are God-given rights, should ever give up standing for the transfer of public lands to the states.

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