GARFIELD COUNTY(News4Utah) – Emotions run high in the debate over public lands in our state, but elected officials in Garfield County say there’s room to meet in the middle.
The county is home to a vast wilderness landscape.
“We’re huge in land mass. We have 5200 square miles, but we’re few in tax base and people that live here. Our population is around 5,000,” said Sheriff James D. Perkins.
That creates some unique challenges for the rural Utah county.
The biggest for Sheriff Perkins and his seven deputies is search and rescue operations.
He says they are dedicated to answering the call, but says the federal government has not been a good partner.
“When this monument was created I don’t think there was a lot of forethought into things like search and rescue and law enforcement,” he said.
President Trump has slashed the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Six months later, it’s still a heated debate.
“That’s the most disappointing thing, that they’re going to be mining this land. And, taking down the monument status actually hurts the economy of southern Utah,” said public lands advocate Colter Hoyt.
County Commissioner Jerry Taylor says locking up 1.9 million acres is what hurt the local economy.
“It was devastating,” he said.
He favors the reduction and sees it as a new opportunity to build the economy in Garfield County.
“It creates controversy, but I bet if you got us all together and sat down, I bet we have a lot of common ground. That we all love this area, the beauty and surroundings and we all want what’s best for this area,” Taylor said.
He says they want to diversify the economy by embracing tourism, but also putting a focus on bringing manufacturers to the area.