Forest Service: Mineral Issues
Mesia Nyman presented a forest service update at the Emery County Public Lands Council meeting on Aug. 12. She began by telling the council that the forest service was waiving the fees for the Arapeen ATV Jamboree use of the forest trails. She mentioned the jamboree would use the first year as a building year and the event will gain momentum as it becomes better known and through word of mouth advertising. She said the event would begin with a ride up Reeder on Aug. 13.
Nyman said the forest is on fire restrictions and fires are to be lit only in developed campground steel fire rings. There have been six small fires in the district, but they have been contained to one tenth of an acre and the response was fast and they were put out quickly. One hundred acres have burned, however, on private ground near Scofield Reservoir.
The grazing situation looked worrisome to begin with Nyman said, but with the recent rains things are looking pretty good. The cattle have been moving through the allotments, quicker than normal and the main problem is with the water sources. Some springs are dried up and some cattlemen have been hauling water.
Nyman reported that the weeds are still doing well even with the drought and the forest service has an active weed fighting program. They have a crew of six people who are out fight weeds every day. Also, this year the forest service is working with the sheep herders who are out herding their sheep on a daily basis and come into contact daily with the weeds and are now enlisted in the fight against the noxious weeds.
The weed strategy to date has worked with keeping the weeds out of the south where the concentration of weeds is less than in the north. Also work continues to make inroads in the north and keep the weeds from moving southward.
Nyman reported that there is an infestation of Mormon crickets in Joes Valley which could have a big impact on the forage.
She said there has been a die out of wheat stands and with the recent rains there has been a little regeneration and the forest service plans on a reseeding project. Nyman asked the council where we are on the wild and scenic river process. Commissioner Gary Kofford reported that they have attended many meetings with the forest service and that the draft will soon be out. Ann King will present the draft to the forest service. The forest service has asked for input from the public and the county as they have gone through the wild and scenic river process.
Nyman reported that the forest service is installing some new culverts along the Millers Flat Road to help with drainage problems and to expect some traffic delays in the area. Also, there will be a bridge replacement at Miller's Flat Reservoir and traffic will be rerouted around the bridge. The magwater treatment has been done on stretches of road on the Ferron Dugway. Nyman said she had hoped this treatment would help with the washboard problems of that road, but it hasn't. The commissioners explained that with a sandy road base with nothing for the magwater to adhere to the treatments aren't as effective as roads with more gravel in the base. However, more treatments will be administered to this road in the fall and Ray Petersen, public lands director, said that the gravel the forest service has generated has performed a lot better than what the contractor on the project had provided.
The road to Wrigley Reservoir has had a problem with maintenance. Large mounds of dirt were dumped on the road with the intent of being bladed down immediately, but the intended work was not completed for a couple of weeks and some vehicles traveling the road sustained damage. Nyman pointed out that any vehicles that sustained damage have a valid claim and need to file a clam as the forest service would like to take care of the problem. The problem with the road has been taken care of now.
The ATV bridge across Ferron Creek may not be completed this season. The improvements to the dispersed campsites on Miller's Flat Road has not had a design completed or an analysis completed yet. There has been some opposition to this project which would include some learner loops for young ATV riders and also some loop reroutes. However, work to the roads will begin in a couple of weeks.
Petersen mentioned that he had been in the Miller's Flat area over the 24th of July and there didn't seem to be any enforcement or education going on at that time and he didn't see any goodwill riders in the area. "There was a problem and more impact on that area that weekend than there should be all year. It was a free for all for camping and OHV activity," said Petersen.
Nyman said she would pass that information along and see if they can correct the problem for next year. She also reported that they are replacing 12 old toilets on the forest with newer sweet smelling ones. The DWR is currently working on the Ferron Reservoir dam and will continue through November.
Nyman discussed a letter she had received from the council requesting a team approach at evaluating allotments when the time comes for the cattle to move or leave the forest. She said they would be happy and willing to participate in any such program. Dickson Huntington who is the grazing subcommittee chairman for the lands council said he had talked to the cattlemen association presidents and they were less than enthused about the idea. Huntington said they didn't want to impede any of the work the forest service does and they felt they had been treated fairly, although the group effort is not a bad concept. Nyman said they would not be an impediment and that she would let them know when the dates for the allotment visits have been decided. Ray Wareham, a cattleman from Ferron brought the matter before the lands council in a previous meeting where he discussed the matter saying that he thought the allotment visits are too long in coming and that after the cattle leave, elk feed on the allotment and the forest service does not get a clear picture as to the condition of the allotment at the exact time the cattle are taken off. Many times he stated, site visits are done in the fall after the remaining vegetation has already frozen. He felt a more accurate assessment of the condition of the allotment could be done at the time of the removal of the cattle.
Commissioner Kofford mentioned that a photo history of the allotment is an option as to portray the true condition of the allotment when the cattle come off. Nyman mentioned that the forest service has invited many agencies and experts to come to Gentry for a look at the problems there and to offer solutions.
Nyman said they have cameras installed at various locations taking pictures to monitor the lynx. So far there hasn't been any lynx photographed but bear and a bobcat have appeared in the photos.
Nyman said they have a lot of mineral related matters going on at the current time. Craig Johansen, water subcommittee chairman said that he had heard there was a conflict between the BLM and the forest service about mining methods underneath Box Canyon
Nyman said she believed the conflicts were being handled in the upper levels of the BLM and the forest service in Washington. Johansen said that he liked the forest service involvement and their ideas on resource utilization more than the BLM as the BLM had not been kind to them in those matters. The BLM wanted to utilize long wall methods which results in subsidence and the loss of water on the surface.
Johansen explained that the BLM handles all leases of mineral rights on federal land including the forest service. The forest service is responsible for the surface lands. The BLM leases the coal tracts to the highest bidder. To date the forest service has had consent authority and their approval was needed on the awarding of any leases. In Johansen's opinion the BLM is trying to get the consent authority removed from the forest service.
Long wall mining operations cause subsidence and many mining operations have been required to use the room and pillar method when crossing beneath streams to prevent subsidence. Long wall mining increases the yield of coal and results in increased coal royalties for the federal government. Johansen's opinion is that water will be compromised for the sake of mining. "We have relied on the forest service's consent authority heavily in the past," he said.
Johansen asked Nyman how they can get in the mix on the issue. Nyman suggested they express their concerns to the political representatives and they are also welcome to discuss any of it with the mineral experts from both the forest service and the BLM. Johansen expressed concern that he thinks pressure is being exerted to let the leases which come over to Joes Valley reservoir and that 1.8 miles is close enough to the reservoir without coming any closer. Johansen felt the BLM is actively pushing to get closer.
Nyman said it sounded like the issue is bigger than just what is happening in Box Canyon.
It was determined that the commission would send a letter to the BLM, forest service, and state and national representatives expressing county views on the matter.