Is this private school getting public money to push radical environmentalism?
The Four Corners School is an integral part of the Canyon Country Discovery Center in tiny Monticello, Utah. An attractive facility in a beautiful setting at the foot of the Abajo Mountains, with Canyonlands National Park to the north and Lake Powell to the west, this small private school has recently come under fire for its associations with extremist environmental organizations.
Janet Ross, who served for many years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) also serves as the director of the Four Corners School. SUWA is infamous for what some refer to as dirty tricks and others refer to as lies, in garnering donations from supporters through near-hysterical ads portraying oil rigs in national parks, and similar scare tactics.
SUWA is also deeply involved in the “Keep it in the Ground” movement which has the goal of banning virtually all fossil fuel extraction and development efforts in North America.
The Petroglyph, a southern Utah-based blog, reported in September of 2013:
It’s not that locals didn’t like the Four Corner School or their liberal approach to environmental issues. The school’s own records showed that they supported and donated to environmental groups like Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and other radical environmental groups…
The same report details the taxpayer funding that fueled local opposition to the school:
…The controversy was based on the fact that the county was funding a privately-owned non-profit school and associated business with taxpayer money.
The San Juan Record reported back in August that the Four Corners School received $1.59 million tax dollars from the U.S. Commerce Department. Within the U.S. Department of Commerce is the E.D.A (US Economic Development Administration). The grant that the Four Corners School received was an E.D.A Grant.
In 2007 San Juan County commissioners authorized the Four Corner School to receive over $500,000 in taxpayer money from the county to build the Canyon Country Discovery Center. Once the public found out about this and raised a fuss, the county rescinded the money, but not until $400,000.00 had been already paid to the school.
Despite people coming out against their tax dollars being used this way, San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams and Monticello City Mayor Doug Allen continued to help the school petition the state for additional funds from the public treasury.
More recently, a ‘public’ meeting to be held in Monticello by the U.S. Forest Service in order to get local input on a management plan for the region, was held at the private school. The problem was that, not only is the school on privately-owned property with related restrictions, but the school is deemed ‘unfriendly’ by many San Juan County locals because of historical tensions with environmental activist groups, and what many regard as the misapplication of taxpayer funding. Reagangirl.com reported:
The US Forest Service booked the Canyon Country Discovery Center (CCDC) for its Management Plan Revision Open House public meeting on September 14, 2016. The problem is the CCDC is a private school promoting what most residents of San Juan County consider to be radical environmentalist agendas. With deep ties to groups including the Grand Canyon Trust, Wilderness Society, SUWA, Dine Bikeyah, Conservation Lands Foundation, Pew Trusts, Hewlett, and others, CCDC pits itself against the economic interests of the county and its people. For instance, the fore named groups are pushing for the creation of a Bears Ears National Monument, which will effectively shut down oil and gas, mining, and other viable economic industries in San Juan County.
Organizers and supporters of the Four Corners School and the CCDC cite benefits from tourism and outside dollars coming into the county because of its appeal as a traveler destination. Although the majority of funding for the Four Corners School comes from private sources, the funding from San Juan County is significant, considering the fact that San Juan is Utah’s poorest county.
A May 2016 report about extravagant expenditures by the county’s Director of Economic Development is one of many issues in San Juan County generating concern about where taxpayer dollars are going.