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: Commissioners question heritage area bill, ask for option to withdraw, then strike a new deal

After RUFLS volunteers kept questioning the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area bill (S 916) and demanding public hearings, a Kane County commissioner finally decided to read the bill, and he was alarmed. The bill gives a tourism, arts, and preservation organization, the Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance, a federal appointment as management entity for the heritage area.

Fearing loss of local control and rights, and favoritism to arts and travel interests, Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw convinced Commissioner Dan Hewlet to sign a letter with him to Senator Bennett asking for changes to break the "unilateral authority" of the Heritage Alliance, and include ranchers, farmers, miners, and loggers in the definition of heritage in addition to crafters, artisans, and tourism outfitters.

Heritage Alliance executive director Monte Bona made some damage control visits to Kane and Garfield Counties, and instead worked out a different deal. Bennett's office encouraged an agreement without changing the bill because he wants it to pass this year. Bona wanted to resolve the issue with a "memorandum of understanding" between the counties and the Alliance that would promise local officials would be on the board of directors. Habbeshaw insisted on a contract instead, signed by the Kane and Garfield Counties and the Alliance. The contract would put six elected county officials, six municipal officials, six representatives elected from the Alliance, and a governor appointee on the Board of Directors of the Alliance.

Property Rights of America president Carol LaGrasse said this arrangement may be worse in the long run because when you put elected officials in a non-government entity like the Alliance, they can often be hidden from freedom of information and open government laws. They then become "quasi-government." She also said that in such a position, elected officials begin to act like appointed ones.

I spoke with Mr. Habbeshaw today. He disagreed with LaGrasse, believing that the elected officials can always be voted out if you don't agree with them. He felt that, given the momentum behind the bill, the contract is the best option available for maintaining local sovereignty and protecting property rights.

I thanked Mr. Habbeshaw for his efforts, but discussed the above concerns, also warning that the heritage area legislation is not sound economic development, nor does it have public support. I also told him that with so many of these new government programs being created, it will be impossible for the public to monitor all of them.

Mr. Habbeshaw made some good points. For one, if we can't show more numbers on our side, we don't stand a chance of anyone listening to our concerns. The Heritage Alliance people are prepared, intelligent, and not afraid to participate. People opposed to more government boondoggle generally won't stick their necks out, attend public meetings, write or call senators, commissioners, or city officials. Mr. Habbeshaw talked of meetings where 500 people showed up, all vocal, to protest federal road takeovers in Kane County. That's the kind of support you need, he said.


Reading an e-mail or criticizing over coffee ain't going to change anything, folks. Les Matthews of Mt. Pleasant says that around here, you may go to the battle front and find your troops have turned tail on you and ran and left you alone. But perhaps we haven't tried hard enough to get commitments. We need people to call Bennett and their county commissioners and let them know what we think. Call me at 435-462-4575 and I'll get you the phone numbers, or get them yourself. Call and commit several others to do the same every day. We also need letters to the newspaper editors every week.


Eureka and Lander Counties in Nevada just said "no" to the Great Basin National Heritage Area or Route, but Millard (Utah) and White Pine (Nevada) Counties are still on board. Why can't we have the guts to say "no" like the two first counties?

Call your commissioners, mayors, and senators, please.
Good night!

Brad Van Dyke, representative
Rural Utahns For Local Solutions
P.O. Box 3
Spring City, Utah 84662

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