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John Hollenhorst ReportingUtah's most bitter environmental dispute of the last decade has taken an interesting new twist. A group is forming called "Friends of the Monument", and it's in territory that's decidedly hostile to the national monument created by President Bill Clinton.
Perhaps you remember how furious they were in Kanab eight years ago. They packed the biggest room in town to speak out, the very day President Clinton declared the Grand Staircase Escalante a National Monument.
They flew the flag at half-staff. They showed their contempt for the president. They launched black balloons in mourning. And now, eight years later, is a new day dawning in Kanab?
Mike Satter, Friends of the Monument: "The monument is such a treasure that we felt it needs more support than essentially what the government's providing."
Arleah Satter, Friends of the Monument: "And I think there is a growing group of people that really is happy the monument is here."
Mike and Arleah Satter helped organize Friends of the Monument. Recently they packed a theater in Kanab. Yes, in Kanab, 123 people bought tickets to a fundraiser.
Arleah Satter: "We'll just support the monument. We'll support the science and the education and the benefits that it brings to us."
They say their goal is to stay away from the fighting, to not get embroiled in the political battles. In this town, that will be something of a challenge.
Rep. Mike Noel, (R) Kanab: "I know the people you're talking about have pretty strong ties with the democratic party and to the Clinton and Babitt and Gore policies of the past."
Representative Mike Noel is one of the critics still fighting the monument in court. A support group is OK, he says, but he's suspicious of the "Friends" agenda.
Rep. Mike Noel: "We get impacts from environmental groups and organizations that call themselves 'Friends.' But they stop development. They stop our ability to grow. They stop our ability to utilize our resources."
Both sides admit Kanab is changing more from outside than from within. Newcomers are more accepting; old-timers still bitter about the monument.
Arleah Satter: "It's a process of changing the paradigm, I think."
But one thing has already changed in Kanab. Supporters feel free to speak out, no longer afraid of retaliation.
A federal judge in Salt Lake is still presiding over a lawsuit which challenges President Clinton's authority to declare the monument.