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Lands Council Discusses Issues


The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 12 at 10 a.m. in the commission chambers. Those present were chairman Dennis Worwood, Dickson Huntington, Craig Johansen, Joe Fielder, Kirk Johansen, Vernell Rowley and Commissioners Drew Sitterud and Ira Hatch. Also present was the new public lands director, Ray Petersen who is replacing Val Payne who took a job with the state earlier this year.
The first item on the agenda was to approve two sets of minutes from prior meetings. The next item of business was a report from Kathleen Truman on the status of the cowboy poetry book. She said they have the final blue line copy which is the final editing stage before the book is printed. They hope to have the book available before Christmas and copies will be available for purchase at the Museum of the San Rafael. She also presented the council with brochures from the Bear River Heritage Area, she said they haven’t yet introduced a bill to Congress. She also mentioned several other areas in the state including the Uintah Basin who are working on heritage areas at this time. The interpretive kiosks for the I-70 corridor are almost to the last proof, Truman reported. The windows for the Pioneer Museum are also on order and will need to be painted when they arrive.
Commissioner Sitterud mentioned that the Bureau of Land Management’s fly over video of the San Rafael will also be available at the museum in a couple of weeks for those interested in purchasing their own copy of this video. The video depicts the spectacular scenery of the Swell.
Craig Johansen was next on the agenda with the water subcommittee report. He said their committee which was formed to deal with the wild and scenic rivers issue has met with the BLM and the forest service and gone over the eligible nominations with them. Those meetings are behind them now and he’s not sure how everything will shake out. The forest service has dropped out half of their listings and the rest will go through the pipeline. The forest service has listed 16 streams as eligible. The BLM has listed 22 streams and dry washes as eligible.
Johansen reported that they have talked to Representative Brad King and they have arranged a meeting with the Department of Natural Resources for the state to ask them to get involved in the review process and to use the state’s resources instead of having each county deal with this issue on an individual basis. The county doesn’t have the expertise to review on a county level so they will request the state to help. Johansen said his committee has worked hard and they have all attended the review meetings. He also said that the forest service was dealing with the Muddy, Ferron and Huntington drainages although half of those listed as eligible are on the Huntington; the entire Huntington drainage is eligible.
Johansen explained that a designation comes with enough water to realize the value of the classification. The three classifications are wild, scenic and recreation. If a stream were to be listed as recreation then there would need to be enough water flowing in the stream to grow fish or for boating, whatever the classification was for that stream.
Fielder wondered when this eligibility process would be completed. Johansen said they were expecting the agencies to be finished in April. At the current time the BLM hasn’t dropped any off of their list; which includes several dry washes. They mentioned Cottonwood, Kane, Eagle Canyon, Coal Wash and the Box to Green River as those in the nomination process at the current time. A wild designation also comes with a quarter mile strip of wilderness up each side of the river corridor.
Johansen stressed that no matter what the designation it creates a federal water right. The question of how the salinity project fits in with these type of designations was discussed. When the use of water in the fields is decreased this increases the flow in the stream. The conflict arises because no polluted stream or river can be designated as wild, but if the stream is naturally polluted this doesn’t count. The salinity program has been working to reduce the salt pollution in the streams.
The question of how other counties are dealing with wild and scenic river issues was discussed. San Juan County doesn’t have a committee formed yet. Carbon County has a committee formed. It was Johansen’s hope that a regional effort could be put forth. Bill Howell from the SEUAOG said they could talk about such an effort at their next meeting. He was sure San Juan would want to join the effort, but Grand County presently didn’t see the wild and scenic as a great threat with the only stream being way over in the LaSals and they are rather passe about the issue Howell remarked. It was determined that a regional effort was a good idea.
Petersen reported that in talking to Chevron-Texaco he learned that they will be drilling 22-23 new wells in the 2003 season. He is also meeting with Conoco to discuss sites where they would like to drill; two of which are on the Berma Road. Craig Johansen requested that they obtain production information records from the gas companies and review them.
Petersen said he felt the RS-2477 road issue should be addressed under the access management subcommittee because it deals with similar issues. The RS-2477 road issue is ongoing and the state attorney general’s office is working very hard on the issue. Because they are involved with lawsuits on the issue a lot of information is not forthcoming about it at the present time. Petersen stressed that he feels the RS-2477 is of heightened importance in lieu of the outcome of the election. He stated they will stay on top of it and continue to gather information to put into the ongoing effort to maintain access.
Fielder wondered if there is a time frame when some decisions on the RS-2477 right of ways will be given. Petersen said hopefully sometime after the first of the year. The attorney general has a lot of information to put together.
Craig Johansen made a motion to install Petersen as the chair of the access management team and to also include the RS-2477 process under their umbrella of responsibilities. Formerly, Commissioner Randy Johnson and public lands director, Val Payne were working on the access and the RS-2477 issues for the public lands council.Commissioner Hatch mentioned that Petersen has been carrying the RS-2477 process with the state committee since the beginning and knows the roads in the county due to his prior employment with the county road department.
The grazing subcommittee report was next on the agenda. Huntington said that he had attended the final planning meeting for the Quivira grazing conference which will be held on Dec. 13 at the Red Cliff lodge in Moab. The following day will be a field trip to a ranch in the Moab area. The public lands council is a co-sponsor of the conference along with the soil conservation districts in the area. Mailing lists have been obtained from the forest service and the BLM for permittees in our area and information about the conference will be sent to each of them. Huntington also mentioned that they would like to make the conference an annual event. Fielder gave the report on the SITLA land exchange next. He said it has made it through the Congress and is currently in the Senate. He also said he had taken some SITLA officials on a mine tour in our area. Steve Boyden the current director of SITLA has plans to leave the organization for the missionary training center in Spain and they are looking for a replacement to fill his position. Fielder also pointed out that letters to the editor and letters of support to Congressman Jim Hansen could help in moving the bill along. Fielder wondered if the lands council was still in favor of the land exchange and if they would publicly support it.
Rowley wondered if the removal of the trust lands from the Wilderness Study Areas was an easier way to tie up the WSAs. Fielder said the reason SITLA wanted to exchange the school trust land within the WSAs was because they wanted lands that would be more valuable to the school children.
Craig Johansen said he hadn’t been entirely satisfied with the land exchange and had wanted to include some BLM lands for possible heritage sites for tourism and he was not sure he would favor a vote of support for the exchange at this time. He also said that SITLA didn’t consider Emery County’s interests and either didn’t understand them or disregarded them.
Commissioner Sitterud said the county didn’t see the map until the night before it went to Congress.
Fielder said that he was just bringing it up. Worwood reminded everyone that whether they voice support or not the bill is in the Senate for their consideration and will ultimately be up to them to decide the fate of the bill.
Commissioner Hatch pointed out that there are good things and bad things about the bill and that whenever a bill is presented it’s guaranteed that you won’t get all you want. Craig Johansen made the motion that they table the vote of support for the land exchange and Commissioner Sitterud seconded the motion.
The forest service update was next on the agenda with Mesia Nyman, district ranger informing the council of developments on the forest.
The BLM update was next on the agenda. Patrick Gubbins, Price Field Office Manager saying that their travel plan will come out in January. He said he doubts there will be a lot of changes from the original draft. He said the resource management plan will probably come out some time in fall to winter of 2004 when the wild and scenic river information and land exchange information can be included in the plan. The resource information gathering process which the BLM has been conducting for the Department of the Interior concerning the Swell will also be incorporated into the plan.
Gubbins was asked if the BLM was going to complete their information gathering on the Swell. He said yes they would continue until they were told to terminate it. The public information meetings are next in that process and times and dates are yet to be announced.
Derris Jones for the Division of Wildlife Resources was next with an update. He said the deer hunt was poor this season. He said they have been taking samples of deer taken near the eastern border next to Colorado to check for chronic wasting disease. They are approximately 100 samples short and might have to take deer to get the samples required for testing. The test results are not back yet. The disease is moving in Colorado and it’s possible it might some day be in Utah. Jones also reported that the pheasant hunt had been poor as well and might be a sign of the future. He also reported that they contract with private bird raisers to raise birds for the DWR. The DWR is also reviewing their bear nuisance policy.
Under other business Craig Johansen said he has been thinking about where we go from here in regards to the monument proposal and other such proposals. He said one thing he learned from the recent election was that we are all on the same side. Multiple use is all we’ve ever wanted since the wilderness discussions began 15 years ago, it might not be what we think multiple use should be. The resource management plan is on the table and will take place of a monument process. It’s good to hear the RMP process has been delayed a year. We all need to become involved in the RMP process. The WSAs, wild and scenic rivers, Red Rock Wilderness; everything will be included and it will not be written by us anymore.
The game plan has not changed, but must be looked at from a different perspective. Johansen’s suggestion was a countywide committee of those who actively campaigned against the monument process and actively involve them in following the RMP process. This citizen committee would be under the jurisdiction of the lands council. “It’s just an idea I thought I would present,” said Johansen.
Worwood pointed out the importance of being involved with the BLM and the forest service. It was also mentioned that the BLM and the forest service have granted the county cooperating agency status in their planning processes.
Petersen mentioned that he has met with Floyd Johnson from the BLM and they talked about the social and economic impacts for the RMP. Petersen said Johnson welcomed the county’s participation on the socio-economic study. The BLM is partially finished with the RMP, the air quality and mineral reports are finished; the travel plan is close to completion and the wild and scenic rivers is part of the process.
Petersen mentioned that instead of forming a new committee that they work under a subcommittee that is already in place. It was mentioned that most of the opposition to the monument process came from the recreation community and the council would like to include these folks on the committee.
It was also pointed out that the RS-2477 roads issue has been placed on the high burner and is of utmost importance to the lands council.
One of the OHV people present mentioned that the council needs to make people aware of what is going on. It was determined that the question of the subcommittee would be put on the agenda for the next month and addressed further at that time.
One audience member questioned the awareness of the Swell that the monument caused and thought we should of stood our ground and said we want to keep what we’ve got.
Worwood addressed the question and said the Swell has received attention for years. In 1964 the Wilderness Act was established to address land issues on the forest and national parks.. In 1976 Congress established the Federal Land Protection Management Act. Congress asked the question was FLPMA alone enough to protect all the BLM land. To begin with the county said, no, we don’t need a designation, FLPMA is all we need. There will be some kind of designation on the Swell that someone else writes concerning access and water. So that is why the county got into the business of management, ‘You can either steer or go along for the ride.’ The Swell was suggested as a National Park as early as the 30s and as a conservation area before FLPMA. Over the years the Swell has been noticed, that is why we got involved. All of the legislation Emery County has proposed has dealt with water rights, we all live upstream. Now, the RS-2477 roads will define the access and all WSAs are roadless. Even if you have 10 acres of wilderness, it comes with a federal reserve water right. It is the same as if you had a million acres. The environmentalists want water and they will take the water from upstream. The Muddy is in the greatest jeopardy. The water involved in the wild and scenic rivers say the water must meet the needs of the designation. Here in Emery County the issue is water.
In July of 1989, I sat and listened to Wayne Owens in this room as he introduced the wilderness bill which he introduced to Congress. We told him we needed water language and he patted our heads and said they knew what was best for us. There has been no consensus on water. The water language that would have been used in a monument was written by Eugene Johansen and denies any federal water right. All water rights are determined by state law. The natural resources already holds a flow on the San Rafael River. In a conservation area the water language depends on the proclamation. The only way to get the water language inserted that you want is to write your own proclamation, but we’re not doing that right now. Right now we’re worrying about the RMP, said Worwood. The next public lands council will be held on Dec. 10 at 10 a.m.

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