Small Town Kanab
In a small town, change is often unwanted. Kanab, in the heart of Utah’s color country, has long enjoyed fame due to its astounding beauty and small-town charm. Multitudes of Western films were shot amongst the buttes and mesas that point the way to Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. The town has long been home to the Western Legends Roundup, which features a rodeo and music festival. Kanab is one of the most pet-friendly towns I have visited. This is largely due to the presence of Best Friends Animal Society, the largest animal sanctuary in the nation.
Between the natural beauty and the kindness of its people, Kanab enjoys a healthy influx of tourism. In response to this growing number of tourists, Best Friends is preparing to open the “Roadhouse”. The new hotel and mercantile is state of the art. It has gorgeous sandstone counters and sinks as well as fiber optic internet and tablets that provide information on the area and the sanctuary.
Behind the rooms is a dog park with a motion-activated water feature. The rooms feature built-in dog houses and a self-use pet grooming center is on-premises. An outdoor stage is available for entertainment. Fresh vegan baked goods will be provided in the morning. However, since there is no restaurant on-site guests will be directed to local establishments. The mercantile building has numerous garage doors that open so guests can enjoy the breezes and music. A wide variety of Best Friends Animal Society merchandise will be available.
Southern Red Sands
While locals view Best Friends with fondness and gratitude, this is not the case with a new business entity rearing its head nearby. The local Facebook groups have recently exploded with indignation as SRS (Southern Red Sands) has begun an effort to begin fracking sand mining in the area on SITLA (State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) land at Red Knoll, 10 miles north of Kanab.
On the table is a controversial 50-year lease for Kanab city water. Locals claim that SRS is being offered water at a fraction of the price locals pay per gallon. There is also the concern that not enough research has taken place to determine the impact on the local ecology. Mayor Robert Houston claimed a UGS ( Utah Geological Survey) study took place; however, UGS denies this and claims they only provided preliminary information that is not suitable to make impactful decisions.
Best Friends conducted a study and found that there is a great need for future research before SRS is allowed to move forward. Locals complain that there has been an exponential increase in semi truck activity on local roads and Highway 89; and that the highway cannot sustain such prolonged use, weight, and constant activity. I personally witnessed many of these massive trucks loaded with sand and couldn’t help but wonder what activity is already underway at the sand mine. Bart Battista, Director of Canyon Operations at Best Friends (who has experience in environmental planning and was formerly a research scientist) wrote an article for the local Sun newspaper noting that prior to mining operations, SITLA requires companies to contact the local county and obtain a conditional use permit.
Local Kanab Pushback
Public meetings have resulted in unanswered questions, deceit, and accusations of conflicts of interest. The county claims the decision ultimately lies with SITLA and as of July 18 the water was granted to SRS. Below are quotes from locals on the community Facebook page, where not one person expressed support for the mine.
Wonder why it is that when there is controversy about a project in Kane/Kanab, officials always side 100% against its citizens?”
“ They had been negotiating this for 18 months and only began involving the citizens within the last few weeks.”
As events unfold in the color country one color is prominent: red, not the red of the sandstone, but the red of rage.