Grand and San Juan counties, neighbors in the southeastern nook of Utah, are divided by way of a dusty 60-mile border and, in step with a brand new ballot, a stark break up in public opinion.
It’s an extraordinary but now not wholly sudden fracture for this rural — and most commonly purple — space of the state. But at its middle, extra pronounced right here than anyplace else, are many years of variations over land control insurance policies that have in large part made up our minds financial prosperity, inhabitants expansion, unemployment charges, poverty and, as the survey suggests, political leanings, too.
“There are these very differing viewpoints between the residents,” stated Judd Nielsen, a lead researcher with Dan Jones & Associates, which carried out the ballot. “For most of the questions, the divide holds up.”
The survey was once commissioned in March by way of protection lawyers representing conservation recommend Rose Chilcoat and her husband, Mark Franklin, who face felony charges for closing a cattle gate in San Juan (only one of the many pending cases in the county over land get right of entry to and vote casting rights). They filed the effects previous this month as an show off to turn out the intense resentment towards and “pervasive dislike” of wasteland activists there. And it labored.
The pass judgement on granted a movement to transport the trial to Carbon County, which fell extra middle-of-the-pack. But the ballot numbers additionally display, for most likely the first time, simply how a long way the adjoining Grand and San Juan counties have diverged ideologically in the previous 30 years .
Pam Perlich, director of demographics at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, believes the shift got here at the finish of the Cold War in the 1990s. After that, she stated, San Juan dug additional into a conventional “old Utah” economic system that favors ranching and mining. Grand dropped its uranium companies and embraced tourism with the sandstone spires of Arches National Park at its doorstep in bustling Moab.
“The economic development strategies have been very different,” she stated. “Grand County became an outdoor sports mecca. San Juan County not so much.”
It’s a setup that has endured with San Juan bucking at the nationwide monument designated by way of President Barack Obama in its yard, with 75 p.c of residents opposing it. “That’s what we call consensus,” Nielsen stated. (Grand, in step with the ballot, welcomed it by way of a 55 p.c majority.)
San Juan, too, has just about double the poverty (31 p.c) and unemployment charges (6.four p.c) as its northern neighbor, in step with knowledge from the Utah Department of Workforce Services. And it sees 20 p.c much less earnings from the hospitality and recreational trade than Grand, which draws extra recreationists and retirees. Fewer other people transfer to the county every yr, as neatly.
The other land use fashions, Perlich stated, are most likely at the back of all of that.
“They’ve got to be rooted in these long historical differences of the people who have moved there, how they’ve made a living and what their cultures are.”
She cautions, although, that the Dan Jones survey, with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.eight proportion issues, may have neglected Navajo residents in San Juan County, who make up 50 p.c of the inhabitants but can also be arduous to succeed in in polls carried out by way of landlines. (The bulk of ballot respondents have been in Blanding and Monticello, the place whites a long way outnumber Navajos.) They would usually be more in favor of the monument and environmentalists.
“If you survey the Native Americans, it’s usually different,” added Mark Maryboy, a Navajo and previous Democratic commissioner for San Juan. “Native Americans believe that conservation and tourism are a viable economic development plan because it’s consistent. It’s always there. It maybe doesn’t pay as much as oil and gas, but it’s something that you can rely on.”
Environmentalists and celebration politics
Josh Ewing has gotten dying threats. All 4 of his automotive tires have been slashed whilst he’s been mountain climbing in faraway desolate tract corners of San Juan County. And, he stated, “I’ve had a county commissioner say, ‘We want to get parasitic environmentalists the hell out.’”
“It’s far less of a ‘sagebrush rebel’ crowd, even among the more conservative people there,” he stated.
Nielsen credit some of that distinction in angle and acceptance to how celebration politics damage down in every county. In Grand, as an example, there’s a near-even break up between liberal and conservative citizens. In the 2016 presidential race, Republican Donald Trump took the county by way of simply zero.three p.c over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Before that, residents selected GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 (by way of one of his slimmest margins in the state) and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.
San Juan County, on the different hand, has long gone purple in a minimum of the previous 5 nationwide elections.
“I had those assumptions, but did not realize just how far the divide is between those two neighboring counties,” Nielsen stated.
The BLM and native famous person
The survey additionally discovered that Grand County residents had a 68 p.c favorable view of the BLM whilst its southern neighbor had 45 p.c.
San Juan has had an adversarial dating with the federal land company after it closed a canyon to offer protection to historic American Indian dwellings. Current commissioner Lyman, a descendant of the Mormon ranching circle of relatives that settled in the small the city of Blanding in 1905, led an ATV ride there anyway in May 2014 and was once ordered to spend 10 days in prison.
He’s well known for it inside of the county — with an astonishing 63 p.c approval ranking — but out of doors he’s a lot much less of a star. Some 44 p.c of Grand residents and 58 p.c in Carbon had by no means heard of Lyman. Both fall simply out of doors the state House district he’s running for this year.
“I don’t care. I don’t try to be well known. I just do the right thing,” Lyman replied. “If people like what I do, it makes me more nervous than if they get upset about it, honestly. If people are supporting you, it usually means you’re doing the wrong thing.”
Those who did have an opinion of him in Grand, although, have been two times as prone to see him negatively as undoubtedly, Nielsen stated, reinforcing the connection between those that make stronger the BLM and environmentalists.
It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg query: Did extra revolutionary environmentalists transfer to Grand County as a result of of its land coverage? Or did the land coverage take form as a result of of extra left-leaning residents there?
The present Democratic Party chairman and a former Republican councilman a minimum of agree that, both method, the county is markedly other from San Juan.
“They’re geographic equals, but culturally there’s a big difference,” stated Kevin Walker, who heads the Grand County Democratic Party. “If you visit Moab and you visit Monticello, you’ll see a big difference.”
Lynn Jackson, a onetime GOP councilman and a former BLM worker, has lived in Moab for 35 years. While he sees how public lands have introduced vacationers to the space — which he believes isn’t all just right — he additionally credit early mining for bringing in other people from round the international.
“There has always been a little bit of a difference,” Jackson added. “It’s widened in the last 20 years.”
Moab, the biggest town in Grand, may be as regards to Denver and on the primary freeway that the majority pressure via to get to San Juan County. It’s a gateway, of types.