Letter to the Editor: Usa-all Vs. Emery County
In reference to accusations made by Ranier Huck (USA-ALL Files Law Suit Against Emery County, May 11, 2004) that Emery County "did nothing as BLM ... Barricaded long acknowledged RS-2477 roads."
Mr. Huck is inaccurate both in his portrayal of Emery County's position and the status of RS-2477 roads. The following text makes it clear that Emery County didn't abandon any rights-of-way when it acknowledged the implementation of the BLM Route Designation Plan. Further, Emery County has spent much effort, dollars and man-hours documenting potential RS-2477 roads, but there has yet to be a single case where a road has been legally "acknowledged" in Utah. We have been engaged with other counties in the state and the Utah Attorney General's office in an effort to resolve this issue for several years.
Mr. Huck states that "During 2003 USA-ALL demanded that the county re-open the blocked roads" (my emphasis). Emery County's position concerning federal lands policy will not be determined by extremist special interest advocates.
The following letter was sent to the Patrick Gubbins, Field Manager of the BLM on March 3, 2003:
On February 3, 2003, the Price Field Office presented the completed San Rafael Route Designation Plan. The Emery County Public Lands Council (Council), and the Emery County Commission (Commission), wish to commend yourself and the staff of the Price Field Office on the completion of this truly complex task. We appreciate the opportunity we have had throughout this process to work along iwth the BLM and other organizations and individuals to bring this plan to fruition. We recognize that while this plan designates specific motorized routes in the San Rafael area for OHV use, it is just one step in total management of the area and will be incorporated in some form in the Price Field Office )PFO_ Resource Management Plan (RMP). We also recognize that the implementation of the plan will be a major undertaking, and if not done properly will allow the many long hours invested in the Route Designation Plan to be for nought. As you know, it is our intent to encourage compliance with the plan, and be participants in its implementation.
In soliciting public response to this plan, we find that the citizens of Emery County, as well as some other interested parties from outside the area, generally accept the designation of the routes as workable, although nearly everyone that spends more than one weekend per year in the area has been personlly impacted with the closing of a favorite road or trail. Those that have been brought to our attentnion are included in the attached document "CITIZEN LIST OF ROAD CONCERNS:. As the Price Field Office Resource Management Plan proceeds, we would ask that the roads on this list be given consideration in the development of alternatives.
While we accept this plan by the Price Field Office to be complete in process, by doing so it is not our intent to be inconsistent with the Emery County General Plan which states that,
It has been the declared policy of Emery County to work to preserve and maintain public land access routes and cooperate with the various state and federal agencies and special interest groups regarding land use policies. Government agencies and users will recognize the County's right to assert its preemptive authority over all claimed roads with inherent rights to access and maintain said roads to safe and applicable standards while allowing continued multiple use and development of our lands as originally granted by the MIning Act of 1866 and as specified by RS-2477 and in compliance of FLPMA.
To ensure that the County's "access" questions and concerns are accurately identified and adequately addressed, the County will continue to maintain its RS-2477 assertion and will participate in pertinent RS-2477 discussion and all other relevant federal and state land/road management decisions.
Concerning the "Specific Routes Brought Forth from Public Comments" referred to in your letter, we recognize that some sound decisions were made based on valid criteria. The Behind the Reef route is in reality suitable for vehicles with wheel widths under 52 inces. The "conditionally open" designation for the routes within the Sid's Mountain WSA has worked well. Users have obviously taken it upon themselves to stay on the trails and minimize the impact of motorized travel in this area. The fencing project in Cane Wash and rerouting of motorized travel is a welcome decision that allows continued use of the route. An on-site meeting is scheduled to survey the erosion problem on the Upper Little Wild Horse route. BLM staff and Emery County representatives hope to plan the necessary repair and rehabilitation of the site at that time which will allow the re-opening of that route. Although the Muddy Creek route through the reef is a well documented and historically well traveled road, we recognize the very real need to protect riparian and watershed resources.
The decision to close the June's Bottom road to motorized use is not justifiable because of the two concerns listed. The alleged "route proliferation" is non-existent. Motorized travel has been contained on the obvious and well marked route. On a recent survey, there were three sites where full sized vehicles apparently had found the route too extreme and discreetly performed a threepoint turn and exited the way they had come in. One side route has been traveled to a prominent overlook. All traffic returned to the main route on the same course without cutting cross country. The way is clearly marked with cairns across the slickrock portions. At the river bottom, all traffic has stayed on one track for about a quarter of a mile to the cultural site, and not beyond, even though the river bottom is very open and inviting to cross country travel.
Closing the motorized route into June's Bottom to protect the tentative classification of "wild" on this section of the river is convoluted reasoning. If one follows this type of logic then one could close existing, historical routes on any given stretch of river and creat a "wild and scenic" river. In addition to the June's Bottom route, the Green River is accessed at the mouth of the San Rafael River in two separate places. A road near Bull Bottom and another at Mineral Bottom that comes upstream to Hey Joe Canyon are on the Grand County side. Downstream another road at Anderson Bottom has served as one of the historic fuel stops for the Friendship Cruise. Closing them and pretending they aren't there doesn't justify wild and scenic status.
Finally, there are two classes of routes that the Council is troubled with not seeing designated. THe first being those routes lying within "Open" areas. We have heard the argument made by BLM staff that there is no need to designate routes that are in the "open" areas simply because it is "open". This argument would be easier to accept if not for the fact that there have been many routes that have been eliminated from the travel plan map. How is it possible to close a road in an "open" area?
There are also a number of single track trails which have historically been utilized for events by special use permits. Were they not eligible for consideration as viable routes? Are they still accessible with special use permitting? Some of the routes are east of SR-24 in the "open" area, but others are west of the highway and east of the San Rafael Reef Wilderness Study Area boundary.
We look forward to further participation in the Resource Management Plan process.