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Letter to the editor: Emery County Public Land Management Act

I appreciate Emery County officials and the Emery County Public Lands Council for the time and effort that has gone into this bill. I realize this bill is done in good faith in an attempt to deter a future monument designation on the San Rafael Swell. Granted under the current administration it does not appear that the Antiquities Act will be abused as it has been under the Clinton and Obama administrations; however, future administrations are unknown.
Taking into consideration the positive aspects of the bill, I think the citizens need to be informed of the limitations of the bill considering what we will be giving up. The total acreage of wilderness designated will be far more than the acreage of current Wilderness Study Areas, and there will be no turning back the clock once this is in place. It will be something that we will live with, and the generations to follow. The same goes for over 50 miles of the Green River that will get new wild and scenic river designations.
Most importantly the bill does not guarantee that a future president will not make a monument anywhere in Emery County. The threat of a monument is substantially decreased; however, there is nothing in the bill that would limit the president from proclaiming a monument designation over the Swell, its surroundings, or other corners of the county.
The current bill prohibits the addition of new routes. I feel it is important that Emery County have the opportunity to adjust routes as needed. This would include new construction or substantial rerouting of roads or trails that may be damaged by an act of nature.
The current bill supports the concept that current routes remain open; however, the day after the bill is signed, it would do nothing to prevent the BLM from being pressured into closing any route. I believe the bill needs to contain language to support no net loss of roads and trails in perpetuity just as wilderness is designated in perpetuity.
I realize that the county proposes that this bill is locally driven by local stakeholders. The bill supports a resource advisory council for the NCA; however, this RAC is dissolved one year after the management plan is created. I wonder, with the RAC’s dissolution, how do the local citizens maintain some form of influence concerning future decisions? There are several ongoing councils that function very well such as the wildlife RAC. I feel it is important to always have a seat at the table.
I feel that the bill does not have enough supporting language to ensure that the NCA’s recreational purpose includes the operation of off-highway vehicles on 4WD, ATV, and motorcycle trails. Otherwise the Swell could wind up being managed like the Glen Canyon NRA which, despite having “Recreation” in its name, has attempted to exclude OHV’s outright.
I have a great appreciation of the bill’s attempt to consolidate state trust lands; however, this bill is mutually beneficial to the environmentalist community in that it guarantees state trust land will not be developed on the Swell. Since land consolidation is a bipartisan goal, it shouldn’t require jeopardizing our access in the long term.
Before we consent to creating 577,986 acres of wilderness, I feel that we also need to be educated on the limitations of this bill.
Wade Allinson
Emery County, Utah

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