Simmering tensions were apparent at a San Juan County Commission work meeting on Feb. 3, as commissioners spoke with San Juan County Public Lands Planning Department official Nick Sandberg.
Sandberg reported that the Bureau of Land Management was considering revising grazing regulations to eliminate a 15-day protest period after a proposed decision on a permit renewal.
“Any time the government decides to do less regulation on any of the public lands, I think that’s good,” Commissioner Bruce Adams said with excitement, adding “I might be the only one who thinks that’s good.”
That mention of a perceived political difference sparked a response from Commissioner Willie Greyeyes.
“Two meetings ago, I posed a question about [water] contamination,” said Willie Greyeyes, referring to a separate BLM proposal to approve oil and gas leases in the Recapture Canyon area.
Greyeyes said he felt concerns had been dismissed with the belief that any contamination would be far in the future.
“What about the people who live in seven generations? Are we not including them?” he said, cautioning “water contamination is forever.”
Greyeyes also noted that some residents of the county were still suffering from the effects from uranium contamination.
Councilmember Adams was clearly upset about the issues being raised.
“I’d guess there’s always a chance that there could be a breach...but I think that the BLM and the companies are doing all they can do at this point,” Adams said.
“I think that we’re taking positions from our personal perspectives,” Commission Chair Kenneth Maryboy said, remarking his constituents were familiar with the real risk of water contamination. Water to the town of Aneth and nearby Montezuma Creek was shut off in 2015 after a release of toxic mine waste into the Animas River.
Maryboy urged caution when approving oil and gas leases in San Juan County.
“Yes, the revenue is needed,” he said, “but I think that the lives of those people is more important than anything else.”
San Juan County Commission meetings are held every first and third Tuesday of the month and are live-streamed on the San Juan County Commission YouTube page.