County commissioners vote again on the issue
By Mark Esper
The San Juan County Board of Commissioners continue to support the San Juan Wilderness Bill introduced by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Well, sort of.
Actually, the commissioners voted 2-1 last week to support the wilderness bill — provided it does not affect mining.
That is a different stance from when the same three commissioners, following an April 29, 2009 public hearing, endorsed the bill unanimously with no caveats.
The time around County Board Chairman Ernie Kuhlman said that while he is OK with the portion of the bill setting aside a Sheep Mountain Special Management Area in the Ice Lakes area, he opposes the idea of expanding wilderness areas elsewhere in the San Juans.
“Personally I don’t support expanding wilderness,” Kuhlman said.
After some discussion on the issue Wednesday night, County Commissioner Pete McKay pressed the question of whether his fellow commissioners still stand with their April 29, 2009 vote, which came after a hearing which heard wide public support for the bill.
“Either this county supports the Udall bill or we don’t,” McKay said. “The people have a right to know. I thought we had an understanding that we would continue to support the Udall wilderness bill.”
Kuhlman acknowledged he voted to support the proposed wilderness bill in 2009. “but we wanted to take another look at it.”
Commissioner Terry Rhoades said he still favors the wilderness bill as long as he gets assurance it won’t affect mining or other jobs.
He said after meeting with Sen. Udall’s representatives he was assured that is the case, so he still supports the bill.
The commissioners then adopted a motion to support the bill with an amendment that the support is contingent on there being no adverse impact on mining and jobs.