Unveiling the Secret
Part III of a Series on the Wilcox Acquisition in Range Creek
|Range Creek flows through the property.|
The balancing act has begun in regards to the Wilcox acquisition in Range Creek. The property is currently under the care of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Initially, a draft document on a resource management plan was supposed to be complete by January 2005. The time table to get something in place for interim management has been drastically moved up. Derris Jones from the DWR reported at a recent Emery County public lands council meeting that they had met with Governor Olene Walker and her staff.
Gov. Walker wants an interim management plan available before a special session of the Utah legislature is called sometime in late August or September. A full time security person will be hired to patrol the area. The area is currently being patrolled more frequently by BLM ranger, Don Lum and Deputy Ray Jeffs from the Emery County Sheriff's Office.
Currently under investigation is the theft of an artifact that was taken in the last two years and also other items that disappeared between June 10-30 of this year. Three sessions of students have been in the canyon this summer and the DWR is interviewing all of the people in the canyon during that time. All potential witnesses to the theft are being interviewed.
Jones also reported that the fruit is ripening in the canyon and the black bears will be coming in to eat the fruit. The archaeologists and students in the canyon continue to use hummingbird feeders, which also attract bears, even after being warned by the DWR. Jones said hopefully they will not have to destroy any bears.
Jones said a meeting has been set up for July 21, for all parties involved in sculpting a management plan for Range Creek. This committee is made up of representatives from DWR, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, SITLA, State Historic Preservation Office, Emery and Carbon counties, BLM, Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and the local private landowners from the area. The final plan will receive public review through the DWR's Regional Advisory Councils and the final approval will come from the Utah Wildlife Board.
Jones said Range Creek has taken on a political life of its own. "On the 21st we will hack out an interim plan, on how to manage until we can get a plan out. Two weeks is such a short time to get something like that completed."
The objective will be to create a short document which is concise that outlines what is allowed and what is not as the Governor requested.
|Wildlilfe is abundant in Range Creek.|
Jones said the interim plan will also be in keeping with the original objectives of the acquisition where the primary interest was to secure and enhance the wildlife management area and its habitats. The second objective of the acquisition was to maintain public access. Access is now available for foot and horseback travel in the canyon and Jones doesn't see this changing. Jones believes people can be allowed to see it and also protect it. He said there are a lot of people saying that it can't be protected and it should be closed down to public access, but that is not in keeping with the terms of the acquisition.
Jones said, "The people we are seeing hike into the canyon right now are not prepared to be there. They aren't aware of the distances involved and the difficulty of the hike. They are coming in without food and water and when they get to the bottom they are too tired to make it back out. The students and archaeologists are unprepared for these hikers. Those working in the canyon have only small first aid kits and are not prepared to treat dehydration and heat exhaustion. The safety of those coming into the canyon is a definite risk because the hikers are so unprepared."
Jones said that plans for a kiosk at Horse Canyon which explains the conditions of the canyon and what's involved in going in there will help educate the public about the dangers of just taking off into the canyon. Also, the distances involved will be explained."
Hikers accessing the property from the south end are in danger of trespassing on the private land and these landowners are considering taking measures to keep people off their land.
The BLM is currently considering an emergency road closure to help protect archaeological sites on their land. A field trip with the Emery County Commissioners and the BLM is being planned. County commissioner Drew Sitterud said the county is opposed to any road closures.
Joel Boomgarden, teaching assistant at the University of Utah said that 90 percent of the sites, those on BLM land, have unbelievable vandalism that has occurred over the years. People have dug trenches, knocked over walls and made a mess of sites while digging for artifacts. In one case they ripped out an ancient storage box used by the Indians.
Range Creek is known for its wide, diverse populations of wildlife. There are deer in Range Creek who have never seen a human. An occasional buffalo will wander into Range Creek and elk, Rocky Mountain big horn sheep, wild turkey, bear and cougar are abundant. One of the major reasons for the purchase of the Wilcox Ranch was to allow public access, particularly to thousands of acres of public domain managed by the BLM.
There are many partners involved in this balancing act, but the thing that can be agreed on is that the area must be protected, preserved and used without allowing its destruction.