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Front Page » October 22, 2013 » Emery County News » Public lands council talks about a bill for healthy forests
Published 368 days ago

Public lands council talks about a bill for healthy forests


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By PATSY STODDARD

The October public lands council meeting didn't see an increased attendance of federal public lands managers as hoped because of the government shut down.

It was mentioned they weren't in attendance as they are not getting paid during the shutdown and many agencies are operating with limited staffs just to keep things running at a minimal level.

Sherrel Ward brought up HR 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, sponsored by House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings. This legislation is a long term solution to put Americans back to work, provide stable funding for rural schools and communities, restore forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires by renewing the federal governments commitment to actively manage our national forests.

Ward wondered what the chances are this bill could pass. Dean said the bill looks good to pass in the House and the Senate is more doubtful although people are beginning to see the need for such a bill. The catastrophic wildfires of recent years are making it clear the forests need to be cleaned out and fuel reduction projects are needed and viable options.

Ward would like to see our legislators get behind the bill and push for it.

Johnson suggested they could go door to door and visit other legislators in Washington to garner support for the bill. Johnson said they are ready to go back to Washington in November and could include lobbying for this bill with other issues.

There is value in visiting Washington and meeting people face to face. Cong. Bishop said he appreciates the Emery County officials visiting Washington and no other counties are doing that at this time.

Ward asked Mr. Dean to talk to Sen. Hatch about the bill and get him talking to his colleagues to get the bill passed.

Dean said he doesn't see Sen. Reid stalling the bill in the Senate, there could be trouble with Sen. Boxer, but with recent fires in California those legislators could be coming around.

Chairman Ed Geary said Emery County made the cover of the Utah Geological Survey newsletter with a report on the aftermath of the Seeley fire. He congratulated the Emery County Road Department on how they have kept the roads up and open during all the flooding events occurring last month.

In Emery County there are 1,200 miles of roads with 100 miles of that being paved. (county roads) and 100 miles graveled with the remainder being dirt. The road department is going to ask for assistance from FEMA to help with funding for all the damage to the roads. Cottonwood Canyon road was especially hard hit.

Randy Johnson gave a report on the trip to Washington DC on Sept. 9-12. They addressed the things that are most important to Emery County. They met with Rep. Rob Bishop and he is very engaged, supportive and ready to make something of this bill. Cong. Chaffetz is very supportive as well. Bishop's staff has created a map and some draft language and it's expected to be ready this fall. "Our congressmen recognize the fact that if they can't bring this together (quickly) and get a map, they won't have anything to move this fall," said Johnson.

Johnson said the first map put forth may not be too detailed as it will receive a lot of public scrutiny.

Ray Petersen, public lands director said other groups have submitted maps to Cong. Bishop as well and they include more wilderness than the map Emery County has submitted.

Johnson said there are a couple of things critical to Emery County including when land managers change, the rules need to stay the same. The land use bill will deal with these types of issues.

Some of the areas other groups are proposing as wilderness include roads. Johnson said Emery County's proposal is based on the transportation plan which has been through several public processes.

If (these groups) try to stretch wilderness then what happens to the roads? Emery County will not be involved in the closing of roads. If the recommendation is to cherry stem roads into these areas then that could be considered. These groups must recognize the importance of the transportation plan if their maps are to be looked at with any degree of seriousness Johnson indicated.

Petersen said roads and trails won't be eliminated and on some of these maps areas indicated for wilderness are multiple use areas involving several land users. He said he pointed this out to the other groups and said these areas are not compatible with special designation. Petersen has met with Lowell Braxton from the Western Energy Alliance and they represent oil and gas development. He is supportive of the Emery County process and likes the idea of some certainty of where development can take place.

Other prominent stakeholders are recognizing the strength of the Emery County approach.

The other counties involved haven't submitted maps yet, but maps will be developed by the staff members using information obtained from all the counties involved.

Council member Rod Player said to look very carefully at the roads in wilderness areas. Most of these roads become unusable because no one wants to take the responsibility to maintain them. "Cherry stemming doesn't mean it's business as usual," said Player.

Johnson said there are things Emery County will and won't discuss and everything will be done in the open. Parameters will be established.

Under agency reports the Bureau of Land Management was not in attendance. Petersen said he has been in correspondence with the BLM and they will plan on attending in the future. He said the county has a good relationship with the BLM but it is unfortunate they don't attend the public lands council monthly meeting. They do attend other meetings in the county.

Sherrel Ward said he wished to thank Patsy and the Progress for the article about the agencies missing meetings and he thinks it will help.

John Baza from the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining was next to speak. He thanked Ray for the reminder to attend the lands council meetings. He has met with his staff and they will be more regular attendees in the future. DOGM is in charge of three regulatory programs including coal, non coal mining including small landscape rock businesses to large scale mining like the copper mine.

Baza said he doesn't know how much impact the government shutdown will have on the coal program. It depends on how long it lasts. The state has some money to keep going.

The other program DOGM oversees is the abandoned mine reclamation program. The money for this program comes from a tax on coal. Westridge mine is nearing the end of their coal reserves. Lila Canyon could ramp up production depending on the coal market.

Deer Creek miners received warning notices that there could be lay-offs after 60 days.

The San Rafael project for mine reclamation could start in the next couple of weeks. The BLM is organizing the project and DOGM is the agency over the project. Chris Conrad is helping with the project.

There is a coal fire which has been burning since the Seeley fire in the coal seam near Wattis. DOGM has been working to put this fire out.

Baza reminded everyone of the DOGM quarterly collaborative meeting which alternates between Emery and Carbon counties. It was held a couple weeks ago and reported in the paper concerning the future of coal fired power generation. This meeting tackles a variety of topics and in December in Price Cody Stewart from the governors office will be the speaker. "Anyone is welcome to attend these meetings," said Baza.

Commissioner James Nelson said these are informative and well attended meetings.

A question was asked of Baza concerning nuclear power and uranium mines. Baza said DOGM does regulate uranium mines, but most of the uranium needed for the nuclear power plants in Europe comes from the world market where the source is closer to where the power is being generated. Blue Castle Holdings is trying to place a nuclear power plant near Green River but for now the uranium market is somewhat stagnant remarked Baza.

Chris Wood from the Division of Wildlife Resources said it's a busy time for them. The muzzleloader hunt is on right now and elk starts on the weekend. The regular season deer begins Oct. 19.

A habitat project for wildlife for winter range is ongoing at Stump Flat and the Berma Road. The pinyon/juniper trees will be removed on the Stump Flat side and on the Berma Road side a lop and scatter will be used. A plane is flying the area to drop seed and then the bullhog will work the seed into the ground. Ward pointed out that area is used for fall and spring grazing for livestock. It's SITLA land and Wood said the recommended rest time after the project would be two years. Ward said they haven't heard back about that and need to know so alternative plans can be made for the cattle that use that area.

Fall gill netting is taking place at Scofield, Joe's Valley and Electric Lake. A family fishing event was held at Huntington fish and game pond. Five hundred rainbows were stocked there and the pond should be good fishing. The gate at the pond is currently open, but will close when the bird hunts start.

Walt Maldonado is taking the boys and girls club of Green River to Lake Powell to fish. The Green River shooting park will open the middle of October.

"Hunting season is pretty good so far. Emery County has no open law enforcement cases," said Wood.

The issue of extending the boat ramp at Joe's Valley was raised. It would involved cooperation and funding from the DWR, Emery Water Conservancy District and the Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation. The project would have to go through the NEPA process. It was not known who is taking the lead on the project or if it can be completed this fall while the Joe's Valley reservoir is at a low point.

Jonathan Hunt reported on Utah State Parks. They have pulled the trampoline from Huntington Lake due to colder temperatures. Melon Days was a success for the state park in Green River. Millsite Reservoir is up four feet from the recent storms. The parks will be open all winter weather permitting. You can camp in the winter for half price. One idea Hunt had was a Halloween trick or treat event at Huntington State Park if anyone is interested in using the park for trunk or treat contact him at the park.

Ron Dean from Sen. Orrin Hatch's office attended the meeting. He said the Senator had asked them to keep working during the government shut down. The Rural School Funding was attached to the Helium Reserve bill and it passed. This was for $270 million which will come into rural communities to fund schools. This is compensation for federal lands mainly forest within counties for which the counties receive no tax revenues.

In the water update, the Mammoth/Cottonwood is 99 percent of average. The rains have helped but a good snowpack is needed to bring the county out of a three year drought.

The next public lands council meeting will be on Nov. 5. A question was asked of Baza concerning nuclear power and uranium mines. Baza said DOGM does regulate uranium mines, but most of the uranium needed for the nuclear power plants in Europe comes from the world market where the source is closer to where the power is being generated. Blue Castle Holdings is trying to place a nuclear power plant near Green River but for now the uranium market is somewhat stagnant remarked Baza.

Chris Wood from the Division of Wildlife Resources said it's a busy time for them. The muzzleloader hunt is on right now and elk starts on the weekend. The regular season deer begins Oct. 19.

A habitat project for wildlife for winter range is ongoing at Stump Flat and the Berma Road. The pinyon/juniper trees will be removed on the Stump Flat side and on the Berma Road side a lop and scatter will be used. A plane is flying the area to drop seed and then the bullhog will work the seed into the ground. Ward pointed out that area is used for fall and spring grazing for livestock. It's SITLA land and Wood said the recommended rest time after the project would be two years. Ward said they haven't heard back about that and need to know so alternative plans can be made for the cattle that use that area.

Fall gill netting is taking place at Scofield, Joe's Valley and Electric Lake. A family fishing event was held at Huntington fish and game pond. Five hundred rainbows were stocked there and the pond should be good fishing. The gate at the pond is currently open, but will close when the bird hunts start.

Walt Maldonado is taking the boys and girls club of Green River to Lake Powell to fish. The Green River shooting park will open the middle of October.

"Hunting season is pretty good so far. Emery County has no open law enforcement cases," said Wood.

The issue of extending the boat ramp at Joe's Valley was raised. It would involved cooperation and funding from the DWR, Emery Water Conservancy District and the Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation. The project would have to go through the NEPA process. It was not known who is taking the lead on the project or if it can be completed this fall while the Joe's Valley reservoir is at a low point.

Jonathan Hunt reported on Utah State Parks. They have pulled the trampoline from Huntington Lake due to colder temperatures. Melon Days was a success for the state park in Green River. Millsite Reservoir is up four feet from the recent storms. The parks will be open all winter weather permitting. You can camp in the winter for half price. One idea Hunt had was a Halloween trick or treat event at Huntington State Park if anyone is interested in using the park for trunk or treat contact him at the park.

Ron Dean from Sen. Orrin Hatch's office attended the meeting. He said the Senator had asked them to keep working during the government shut down. The Rural School Funding was attached to the Helium Reserve bill and it passed. This was for $270 million which will come into rural communities to fund schools. This is compensation for federal lands mainly forest within counties for which the counties receive no tax revenues.

In the water update, the Mammoth/Cottonwood is 99 percent of average. The rains have helped but a good snowpack is needed to bring the county out of a three year drought.

The next public lands council meeting will be on Nov. 5.

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