Public lands hears updates on drought and fire
The Emery County Public Lands Council heard updates on the public land use bill and the drought conditions at the July meeting. Ed Geary, chairman conducted the meeting.
A field trip was planned with the forest service to visit the burn area one year after the Seeley fire. It is set for Aug. 6.
Commissioner Ethan Migliori spent two days in Washington DC. He reported on his trip. "We visited with all of our Washington representatives except Rep. Matheson. We visited at both senator's offices. Rep. Bishop is very easy to work with and very cordial. We visited with the other congressmen and they are very supportive and urged us to keep in touch. Rep. Chaffetz expressed he is happy to push through our bill, if the multi-county approach becomes problematic. It was a good trip. We plan on going back in September or October. We will do what we need to do to keep your hard work going."
Council member Sherrel Ward wondered if there is a date for the bill to be introduced. Commissioner Migliori said tentative dates are set for this fall. Right now the county will just wait and see as the other counties involved go through their public processes.
Commissioner Migliori said there was much praise back in Washington for Emery County taking the lead on public lands legislation.
It was mentioned now that Washington County has their land use bill in place that those lands are off the table for any further designations and it is hoped that will be the case when the Emery County land use bill is passed.
Council member Jon Gilbert said he recently received email correspondence that said SUWA guarantees their Red Rock wilderness area will be passed.
Commissioner Migliori said that subject wasn't brought up on their Washington trip.
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks said the Sierra Club in a meeting in Moab recently guaranteed the Greater Canyonlands monument as well. But he believes these statements by the Sierra Club and SUWA are just rhetoric at the current time.
Commissioner Horrocks said there is no support for America's Red Rock Wilderness Act this side of the Mississippi River. "Frequent visits to Washington are necessary to lay the foundation for our bill. There are other counties and groups that just send letters to Washington and there is no response."
Chris Wood is the regional supervisor for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He recently replaced Bill Bates who has taken a position in the Salt Lake Office as the wildlife chief.
Wood said, "I've been in the area for seven-eight years as the habitat manager. I've worked with other agencies to improve habitat. We've formed some great partnerships with agencies and the sportsmen. I'm still learning the fisheries and wildlife side. We recently released kokanee salmon in Electric Lake. The next RAC meeting will be in Green River on July 31 at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 6:30 p.m. They will discuss cougar, fur bearers and mountain goat. The DWR has a meet the bat night scheduled for Aug. 2. Meet at 6:30 p.m. at Crescent Junction. A new officer James Thomas will be here on Aug. 17 to replace Ben. We've been conducting the cutthroat spawn at Duck Fork. On July 11, any leftover tags from the draw can be purchased over the counter and online. The mountain goats will be gathered from areas with high populations and transported to the LaSals."
There will be between 150-200 goats transplanted. They won't be available to hunt for several years while the population establishes itself in the new area.
Darren Olsen from the US Forest Service said work continues in Huntington canyon. The burned areas have been spread with a wood mulch material and they will be done by the end of next week with that. The workers have operated from three staging areas. Culvert replacement and debris basin settling ponds are being worked on and work will continue throughout the summer. It is hoped a lot of work can be done before the monsoon season when it's feared more debris will flow from the burn area. Grazing has begun on the forest and the livestock and sheep are in their allotments.
Some timbering will be done at Lake, Willow and other areas. Ward wondered if there is any market for burned trees, but no one could give him an answer.
Olsen said wood for the mulching project came locally, some from Fish Lake and some wood was transported in from Colorado. The mulching took place on the steep slopes. Aspen are growing again in the burn area and some are two feet tall. It's a worry that flooding will still occur when the rains come.
Three lightning caused fires have started three trees on fire this week, one near Emery, one near Meetinghouse and one on the ridge between Meetinghouse and Deer Creek. The forest service has responded swiftly to these fires and they are currently extinguished. The sheriff's office encourages everyone to report any fires and lightning strikes immediately so they can be squelched early.
Ward reported a new fence will be installed in Gentry. The trustees from the sheriff's office have been helping with taking out the old fence.
BYU is doing a study on livestock grazing and they have fenced off test plots.
Ward said, "We are in a severe drought. In the year to date report since October the Red Pine-Huntington Canyon-Mammoth is 68 percent of average. The basinwide total is 77 percent of average. The reservoirs are still doing pretty well, Cleveland is at 82 percent. We are drawing from Miller's Flat first and it's at 54 percent. Huntington North is at 71 percent. We are trying to keep the water level there as high as possible for as long as we can for recreational purposes. Joe's Valley is at 61 percent. Most farmers will get a first and second crop, but probably not a third. Millsite is at 83 percent which has surprised most people."
Mistie Christiansen said they haven't released any water from Julius or Spinners and they will probably save Julius again for culinary water for Emery.
Ward said the irrigators can probably survive this second year of drought, but a third year in a row would be devastating for both the farmers and for culinary water users as well.
The catastrophic fire committee will meet on July 17 at the court house. Gov. Gary Herbert wants a plan submitted from each region by Aug. 1. This committee is evaluating fire potential in all parts of the state. The report will identify at-risk areas and why it's important.
There are some places where fire could be useful and others where fire would be catastrophic. Emery County's mapping will go beyond county borders and include watersheds for Emery County in surrounding counties.
John Anderson, audience member, recognized the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in the Arizona fire and appreciates their efforts and sends his condolences to the families involved.