NEWS RELEASE - April 19, 2004
Contact: Brad VanDyke, representative
Rural Utahns For Local Solutions
PO Box 3, Spring City, UT 84662
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!!!
KANAB PANEL SPURS DISCUSSION OF NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA PROPOSAL:
CALLED "FIRST NIGHT OF PUBLIC PROCESS"
"This is the first night of a public process we've been involved with," Kane County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw told participants in a panel discussion on the proposed National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area held in Kanab last Wednesday, April 14th. The statement challenges claims by proponents that the designation of private and public lands along a 250-mile-long corridor in southern and central Utah as a "national heritage area" has broad public backing.
Introduced by Senator Bob Bennett as S 916, the bill earmarks $10 million in matching federal money for tourism promotion, historic preservation, and so-called "heritage" businesses. It also appoints the Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance, an arts, travel, and preservation organization as the "management entity" of the proposed area, their plan being subject to the approval of the US Secretary of the Interior. The heritage area program is administered through the National Park Service.
In addition to Habbeshaw, four other panelists participated: Kane County Commissioner Dan Hewlett; Monte Bona, executive director of the Heritage Alliance; Brad VanDyke, representative of Rural Utahns For Local Solutions, a grassroots network demanding public involvement in the issue; and Bruce Richeson, special advisor on natural resources from Senator Bennett's office.
Bona explained the history of the Heritage Alliance from its beginnings as the Utah Heritage Products Coalition, and described the main purposes of the heritage area designation as first, recognition of Mormon heritage, and second, tourism and economic development.
VanDyke quoted Property Rights Foundation of America President Carol LaGrasse's March 30th testimony before the US Senate on national heritage areas, when she called the program "federal land use control." He also warned of rising land prices and taxes combined with low seasonal tourism wages driving local residents out in favor of a "leisure elite" in areas of government sponsored tourism-dependent economies. He drew parallels between the heritage area program and the radical environmentalist Wildlands Project.
The Canyon Country Rural Alliance, an organization concerned with federal encroachment on southern Utah lands, sponsored the discussion. One CCRA vice president, Marilyn Lawson, asked panelists why artisans, crafters, and outfitters were named as aspects of the corridor's heritage in the bill, but farmers, ranchers, miners, and loggers were not recognized.
Commissioner Habbeshaw, representing his position as a compromise between Bona's and VanDyke's, presented a revised version of Bennett's bill that recognized farmers, ranchers, miners, and loggers as part of the area's heritage. The main emphasis of Habbeshaw's revision, however, was an attempt to word legislation so that local government is in the driver's seat, rather that the Heritage Alliance, National Park Service, and the Department of the Interior.
This position reflects growing concern in rural areas that so-called "public-private partnerships," especially between bureaucracies and nonprofits or "NGOs" are usurping representative government. Habbeshaw and Bona disagreed, however, as to whether the Heritage Alliance is an NGO.
Richeson warned that, though a bill could be written any way, changes such as adding mining, logging, and ranching would threaten the bill with rejection or amendment by congress. Both Richeson and Bona referred to reports by the General Accounting Office that heritage areas don't impose on property rights.
Van Dyke countered that the GAO had refused to investigate indirect control of property and zoning through "teeth" attached to funding. He felt that compromise was not an option "till all the cards are on the table," and again demanded public hearings, written notification to property owners, and a map showing the extent of the area.
On the other hand, he urged consideration of PRFA President Carol LaGrasse's proposals: eliminate geographic delineations of heritage areas and replace the program with state-by-state heritage block grants; prohibit the government-NGO partnerships and get the National Park Service out of the program. He referred congressional testimony that the heritage area programs lack accountability as they stand today. He also criticized the growing number of rural bureaucracies, unreported by the media, pushing a similar "New West" recreation agenda.
When pressed on for the extent of the area, Bona said it was described in the bill. Asked "how wide?," Bona revealed that the boundaries of Sanpete, Sevier, Piute, Wayne, Garfield, and Kane counties were essentially the national heritage area boundaries. Some in the audience expressed surprise.
Habbeshaw expressed concern that county governments had not been involved enough with the legislation. He asked if there was still time to consider revision before passage. Richeson responded that "the Alliance," not the counties, "came to the senator and asked him for this bill." He assured them that Bennett was willing to sit down with the commissioners, but that there were six counties to deal with.
NOTE: Rural Utahns For Local Solutions is a multipartisan volunteer network promoting local alternatives for resolving rural Utah economic, social, and cultural problems. Many of our members look beyond the conventional left-right spectrum to populist, agrarian, and decentralist concepts as opposed to corporate, federal, and privilege-granting programs. Many of us look to representative democracy as opposed to the bureaucratic-aristocratic partnerships now being promoted for rural America.
Brad Van Dyke, representative
Rural Utahns For Local Solutions
P.O. Box 3
Spring City, Utah 84662