Agencies absent from public lands council meetings for several months include: BLM, SITLA, DOGM
A question was raised at the September Emery County Public Lands Council concerning attendance at the meeting by the Bureau of Land Management. In the past year the BLM has only attended the November 2012 meeting and the February 2013 meeting. This is a concern since 72 percent of the land in Emery County is under BLM management. Council member Sherrel Ward wondered what can be done to encourage the BLM to attend. Public Lands director, Ray Petersen said he would contact the field office director for the BLM and ask that a representative be sent to the public lands council meeting each month.
Chairman Ed Geary said the August meeting was a field trip to the forest to view the damages one year later from the Seeley fire.
Petersen said there is no greater resource than the forest. The watershed is the most important resource we have and without it you couldn't live here. An annual field trip to the forest will be planned. Petersen said this field trip really showed the power of the water and the flood events in the canyon. The council learned some valuable information. He also said he talked with two men from the Utah Geological Survey and their findings are on their website and in their publication called Field Notes. They collected information from the higher country and it's very interesting. Vegetation is coming back into the burn areas. Where the dead spruce were the vegetation is sparce. A lot of sediment is being washed down the river in each storm event. The Emery Water Conservancy District prepared the lunch which was served at Old Folks Flat. The question is still being asked as to whether structures should be rebuilt after each flood event and if funds are available to do it.
Ward mentioned when the flood events come all the water is turned down the river and it runs off because the irrigators can't use the water with all the sediment because it damages equipment.
Commissioner James Nelson said Huntington is lucky they can let the water go, because if it were Millsite or Joe's Valley the sediment would go right into the reservoir.
The bid for the construction of the debris basin in Huntington Canyon was awarded to Nielson Construction. They are waiting for drier weather to proceed.
The council discussed the recent meetings with Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Rob Bishop. They believe Rep. Bishop has gained a new appreciation for what Emery County has done. Staff members also went on a field trip in the Swell and looked at Emery County lands.
Geary said Ray Petersen did a good job fielding questions from the participants on the field trip.
Ward said it appears to him the other counties are far behind Emery County. Randy Johnson said, "Other counties are far behind they can't compare with what Emery County's been doing. There is a substantial difference. Jason and Rob will take the wishes and wants and craft a bill from that into the best possible legislation. They will keep the integrity of Emery County's process."
Mistie Christiansen, lands council member said she asked the question of bringing the integrity of Emery County's language into a draft bill when the Representatives held their meeting in Castle Dale. Rep Bishop acted like he was not aware of Emery County's language when his response to Christiansen's question was, "we don't have a bill, there is no language."
His reaction confused grazers and others who thought Emery County had clear language on grazing as well as language on other land issues.
Wade Garrett, from Rep. Chaffetz office said yes, that was a frustrating statement by Rep. Bishop who has since been informed on all Emery County has done to date. Rep. Bishop wants the bill to be made up of the language Emery County has developed in their ongoing process.
Johnson said the confusion comes he thinks from wording. There isn't a draft bill, there isn't a working document. Nothing has been written yet. Emery County has language which it hopes will be integrated into the bill. He's hopeful the draft language will maintain the integrity of what Emery County has done and will keep the language whole and move it along.
Council member Rod Player wondered if they are going to let other things bog us down.
Johnson said he is confident in the process and in the partnerships that have been formed with the representatives and their staffs. He has full expectations that the grazing, water concerns and other issues will be included. "Be patient, they have a huge amount of respect for Emery County's process," said Johnson.
Christiansen said the perception many took away from that meeting was this is a brand new process and previous meetings and information collected now have no bearing.
The Washington delegation said they would be happy to meet with grazers and explain where the county is in the process and how things will proceed. Geary said it would be helpful to have a meeting with grazers because it's been awhile since they heard anything and they may be detached from the process. He said all they can do is keep trying to educate people and keep them informed.
Slate Stewart said one issue the grazers are having trouble with right now is the SITLA tradeout lands. The grazers are concerned their SITLA grazing lands will be lost. They want to be able to maintain their access and be able to maintain water structures.
Petersen said they don't want to nail everything down, but some things need to be done in a broader spectrum. The county has a map of the proposed SITLA tradeout lands and Petersen and Mike McCandless, economic development director have a meeting next week with SITLA. The ongoing activities in these areas will continue. The county has volunteered to GPS the cattle trails and water structures so this information can be included with any draft language and also as a tool for assessments on allotments which continue through the BLM. A BLM representative at one time told Petersen maybe only 2/3rds of these cattle trails and water structures were recorded. Petersen stressed how important it is to inventory what's on your allotment.
Wilderness doesn't eliminate grazing.
New BLM managers interpret things differently so it's very important to have documentation and pictures of your allotment.
Petersen said it's important to remember that some areas currently don't have grazing. Grazing in the county is subject to the BLM resource management plan.
SITLA has 100,000 acres in the county and they don't make much more than $25,000 a year from these lands. Trading them out would be to SITLA's best advantage. Any concerns ranchers have with these trades need to be documented and addressed. Petersen said he has a map of the tradeout lands.
Stewart said in some areas around Escalante even though they haven't been grazed for several years, they are looking at bringing back these areas into a grazing rotation every three years. So even though an area might not currently have grazing, don't overlook it as a source for grazing in the future.
Geary said during the month of August, Emery County had several visitors and now they can say they've been to Emery County.
Geary turned the meeting to the agency reports. No one was present from the BLM. Marc Stilson spoke for the Division of Water Rights. He said they are currently working on water rights for SUFCO Mine and Deer Creek Mine.
Stilson said there is a push to open up the Colorado River Compact. He said if this occurs the upper basin states will be sure losers. The lower basin users are using the majority of the water and 60 percent of future use is projected for the lower basin.
DOGM wasn't present. The DWR reported the goats are going to the LaSal Mountains inspite of protests by some groups. J. Shirley reported he's been in the area for eight months and was in the San Juan district for eight years. He is excited to be in this region. James Thomas was hired as a new conservation officer. Joe's Valley received 3,000 three inch tiger muskies on Aug. 23. The boat ramp has been temporarily extended and the DWR is looking at doing a permanent extension of the boat ramp while the water is low. The archery hunt is going well with several nice bucks being taken.
No SITLA report. Darren Olsen spoke for the forest service. He introduced Tanner Hembree from Kansas who is the new officer for the forest service. He lives in Ferron.
Olsen said the flooding continues to damage roads in Huntington Canyon. Corner Canyon washed out and Nuck Woodward washed out, but you can still get to the parking area at the trail head in Nuck Woodward. US-6 was closed due to a mudslide too, but it wasn't from the Seeley fire as a news channel up north reported.
Ward said the Rolfson Reservoir road was in bad shape and very rutted.
UDOT continues to work at Engineer Canyon, and the forest service has designated that a parking area, so those using that area must be careful. Ward asked if there were any funds for the upper log racks. Olsen said applications were submitted, but he's not sure if funds have been awarded. The forest service also needs to be involved with the trails committee for long use planning for bouldering in the county.
Jonathan Hunt introduced Sarah Siefken who will be the parks manager at Goblin Valley, Green River State Park and golf course. The first available weekend for camping will be Sept. 20 at Millsite. The parks have been full every weekend since summer started. The new slide at Huntington has been very popular.
Siefken said she's been on the job for three weeks now and was the assistant manager at Goblin Valley before. Melon Days is coming up and that's a busy time for Green River and the park and golf course. New events will be planned for Goblin Valley including geocaching and frisbee competitions. The ultra-marathon will be held the end of October.
Hunt reported revenues at state parks statewide are up and the state parks turned back in close to $1 million to the legislature that wasn't expended this year.
The Washington delegation said they will give a report in October of how things are going with the proposed land use bill.
Under additional issues, Ward wondered if this is a good time for the nation to address management practices on the forests. Ten major fires were burning at one time throughout the west. With no hopes for timber harvests and most lumber mills out of commission, lumber comes into the US from Canada. Decreased grazing leads to more dry grasses to burn. "The west is burning up, the fires are devastating to the water shed. The water won't stay. It runs down and then runs off. Maybe the time is right," said Ward.
Ward suggested harvesting the dead beetle kill trees and grazing to keep the grass down. He encouraged everyone to talk to their legislators to give the forest service some flexibility in correcting these problems that are creating so many issues on the forest.
Commissioner Nelson addressed the attention the proposed drilling leases that are up for bid are getting. Many of these areas have been used for drilling for years without any visual impacts. Mark Ward, the attorney for UAC wrote an opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune and he gathered information from Ray Petersen and Mike McCandless. Commissioner Nelson said this resource (gas) can be harvested without causing any harm.
Petersen said the trails committee needs help inventorying the non-motorized trails in the county. Very little non-motorized trail information is included on current maps.
Ward reported Joe's Valley is very low and the power company water is pretty much all that remains. Huntington has two-three weeks of irrigation left.
Christiansen reported the Ferron Canal Company has purchased a dredger they will use to clean Millsite Reservoir.
It was reported that some trails which are marked open on maps weren't open when a scout troop from up north tried going on a 50 mile hike. She said she didn't know exactly where they gathered their information for the hike, but it can cause problems if trails aren't properly mapped. The next public lands council meeting will be on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m.