Lands council discusses BLM mining leases
The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their December meeting. Rod Player, vice-chairman conducted the meeting. He said the lands council meetings can be listened to on the website.
The Emery County Public Lands Bill was discussed. The county is still working with Rep. Rob Bishop's office and they are asking for input.
Ray Petersen, public lands director said Rep. Bishop issued a report that's available on his website that details what's being done. Currently Emery County is waiting for the other counties to move forward. Some of the counties are moving slowly, but Grand County seems to be moving along fairly quickly.
Randy Johnson, public lands consultant said Rep. Bishop would like to have something ready to introduce by early next year. The first big step will be to create a map. But, Johnson said once a map is released it's hard to refine and can create difficulties if the map changes in anyway. Once the map is out there will be time for public comment. Johnson said, "Rep. Bishop is doing a great job and Ray is doing a great job on this."
The council approved the meeting schedule for 2014 and the meetings will be the first Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m.
Don from the Bureau of Land Management reported the crew has been working on the mine closures east of I-70. They will resume work in early January. The rangeland for the desert is at 90 percent. From the Swinging Bridge to I-70 it is a little lower. Things look good for winter grazing.
A restroom has been installed at the equestrian campground at the Swinging Bridge. There is still some landscaping to be done and after a year of settling, there will be some concrete work completed.
The BLM is providing a supplemental map to the map put out by the DNR and Emery County. This supplement will be stapled to the other map and will clarify some concerns with the original map.
Bryan Torgersen from SITLA said they are working on a land exchange with the DWR for exchanging property the DWR owns in Salt Lake for SITLA land around Desert Lake. SITLA has been involved with Rep. Bishop's office on a land exchange for SITLA land within the land use proposal. SITLA is selling 80 acres of property at the Green River Industrial Park to the oil refinery. SITLA is looking to sell 20 acres near Lawrence that abuts private property.
Bill Broadbear from the forest service said things are quiet on the forest. Christmas tree sales are going on now and there are 150 permits left in the Ferron office and 110 left in the Price office. When they are gone, that will be all for this season. Preliminary discussions are to open the campgrounds below the Forks of Huntington for next season. Day use only in the Seeley fire area. Forks of Huntington would be open to day use, but closed to camping. Currently no work is going on in the forest, but plans are to work on the debris racks next season.
Petersen said he attended a sage grouse meeting with Commissioner Nelson. Emery County has two groups of sage grouse one on Horn Mountain and the other in the Pines area mostly in Sevier County. Emery County supports the combining of alternatives D and E. Emery County has been working with the Parker Mountain group. The deadline for comments is Jan. 31. Petersen recommended everyone comment on the sage grouse. You need to say Utah has managed Greater Sagegrouse for years and has been very successful in increasing numbers. The state needs to be allowed to continue their management. The working groups established years ago should be allowed to continue. "It's a success story," said Petersen.
Petersen said while in Richfield they were able to talk to Juan Palma the BLM state director about the recently deferred oil and gas leases. He assured them the leases are not withdrawn and will be put up for lease in the future after further study. Petersen reminded everyone that in the Price Office RMP, these areas were identified as being good spots for development. There are pictographs and petroglyphs in the area that are protected by AC/ECs. "You can have lease and archaeological sites in the same place," said Petersen.
The extreme environmental groups lead you to believe they can't exist together, but that's not true said Petersen.
Petersen and others commented how the press from upstate misrepresented the areas which were presented for leasing. One picture used was of Eagle Canyon and another of Spotted Wolf, which weren't areas proposed for leasing. Eagle Canyon runs a long way and leasing doesn't impair Eagle Canyon in any way.
Mike McCandless, Emery County Economic Development Director said they sent a small book to the BLM, back during the comment period for the RMP that addressed the prehistoric structures as well as cowboy history in the Swell. The BLM had all the background information on the area.
Commissioner Nelson said mining has taken place across the Swell in several locations throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Mining and drilling in the Swell isn't new.
The commission has sent a letter to the Washington delegation to ask for their help in getting the 100,000 acres back on the table for leasing.
The question was asked about what type of drilling would take place. McCandless said the drilling would be 9,000-13,000 feet deep and there wasn't any ground water in the area. Fracking would be used and it's the Manning Canyon formation.
McCandless said the county inspects and approves all drill pads that go in. They monitor site disturbance, fracking and are very aggressive on what they allow to go on within the county.
Petersen brought up the bouldering recreational use that goes on in Straight Canyon and Cottonwood Canyon. They recently had a meeting with the Wasatch Climbing Alliance and the BLM, Emery County and the forest service. Because the use is so great, the county is thinking of including some type of recreational use management plan for the area. This designation would be included in the public land use bill. The trails committee will prepare something to bring to the public lands council. The commission would have final approval on any proposal.
Petersen said with every new use, challenges come up and this would be a way to deal with accommodating the use and protecting the resource. The forest service has hired someone to collect data on the bouldering activities and use. It would be a Special Recreation Management Area. Petersen said it's best to work within a designation that already exists.
Commissioner Nelson said the Joe's Valley rocks are famous and the climbers have a map and have named 40-50 of the rocks in the area as great for climbing.
Jonathan Hunt from the Utah State Parks said they are holding an ice fishing tourney in Scofield on Dec. 28. They will take the first 200 fisherman to sign up. The cost is $15 and that will come back to the anglers in prizes. The snowcat is ready to groom the snowmobile trails and will begin to do so after two feet of snow arrives.
The investigation is complete into the incident where a hoodoo was toppled in Goblin Valley State Park. The Emery County Attorney's Office is researching what the rock topplers should be charged with.
Mistie Christiansen said the Price River watershed plan is being developed and they have a meeting this week.
Petersen reported so far the water is a little more than 100 percent of average. The next public lands meeting will be held on Jan. 7, 2014 at 10 a.m.