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Front Page » August 31, 2004 » Opinion » Proposed Amendments to County Plan
Published 3,706 days ago

Proposed Amendments to County Plan


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Proposed Amendments to the County General Plan-To be discussed in a public hearing on Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. at the commission meeting.

WHEREAS recent developments, and a review of the Emery County General Plan has disclosed certain deficiencies regarding the County's policy and goals regarding Public Lands; and WHEREAS the amendments set forth herein have been drafted and reviewed by the Emery County Attorney's Office, in consultation with the Emery County Countywide Planning Commission; and WHEREAS the Emery County Countywide Planning Commission in consultation with the Public Lands Council has developed certain changes to the General Plan as contained herein, and has conducted a public hearing as required by law and received public comment and recommended said changes, as adapted following such public comment, to the County Commission to amend the General Plan; and WHEREAS the County Commission is advised that the General Plan requires reorganization as well as this amendment, which may be done by staff without changing the policies and facts set forth therein; and WHEREAS the Emery County Commission has reviewed said changes, held a second public hearing on the date hereof, and having considered the same and the public comments received, NOW, THEREFORE, THE EMERY COUNTY COMMISSION, BEING THE COUNTY LEGISLATIVE BODY OF THE COUNTY OF EMERY, ORDAINS AS FOLLOWS: 1. That the following language regarding Public Lands be added to the General Plan to replace or add to the policies stated therein as the case may be:

PUBLIC LANDS History:1 Ninety-two percent of Emery County is public land managed by federal or state agencies. Because only eight percent of the county is privately owned, access to the surrounding public lands is vitally important to the quality of life in Emery County. The watershed of the county is mainly on public land. The County's agricultural industry depends on the availability of water, as well as grazing rights on public lands. The County's energy industry is founded on coal mined under federal leases and on coalbed methane and natural gas wells which are primarily on public lands. The energy industry also depends on water to run steam turbines to generate electricity. The County's pioneer heritage is evidenced by sites and structures, many of which are located on public lands, and its history is deeply intertwined with these lands. The deserts, geology, mineral resources, lakes and streams, wildlife and grazing have provided an important part of the living of the County's people as well as their way of life and important ties to their predecessors.

The physical center of the county is the San Rafael Swell, which contains some of Utah's finest redrock vistas. As the rest of America has become aware of this area, the numbers of people visiting it for recreation and tourism has increased, but the passage of the Wilderness Act by Congress has resulted in large sections being designated Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with more targeted by wilderness advocates.

Emery County residents as well as others throughout the state, country and from around the world enjoy an ever-growing range of recreation on public lands within Emery County, attracted by the beauty, as well as the challenge, of the rugged landscapes, as well as the mountain lakes and streams and the scenic vistas which open from mountaintops and canyon rims. Grazing and mineral rights on public land have been central to Emery County's economy from its earliest days. In order for the county's economic growth, access to public and private lands must be available. Continued access to public lands and the protection of trails and rights-of-way created in the past are among Emery County's highest public lands priorities.It is important to note that the County, while advocating continued access and some new access, does not advocate unlimited access to public lands. Each road, trail, route or right-of-way is a separate issue which will be examined on its merits and decided accordingly.

Developments and Trends:

Planning and Regulation:

With the nationwide growth of interest in wilderness, and the passage of federal laws directed at environmental and wilderness issues, Emery County recognizes that federal land managers must operate under federal laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). Private, well-funded organizations have appeared which lobby the public, Congress and the agencies that deal with environment and public lands for increased federally-designated wilderness areas, and management focused on wilderness values. Many such organizations seem motivated by a desire to close these lands to vehicle travel, grazing, timber harvest, mining and quarrying and other multiple- use activities. However, federal and state laws specifically recognize the rights and powers of state and local governments to participate in public land management decision- making processes, and mandate that state and local planning be taken into account by federal land management agencies.

The Emery County Commission, with the assistance and support of the Public Lands Council, the Economic Development Council and the County-wide Planning Commission developed specific land management proposals which it offered to the state and federal governments as an alternative to demands from advocates for more wilderness set-asides. These proposals, developed through extensive planning processes in consultation with local, state, and national agencies, reflected local economic, cultural, and recreational interests while safe-guarding the landscape. These proposals were embodied in two documents: 1) H.R. 3625, a bill which was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on April 1, 1998 (reported out of the Committee on Resources August 7, 1998), "To establish the San Rafael Swell National Heritage Area and the San Rafael Swell National Conservation Area...," and; 2) The San Rafael Swell - Our Treasure, Our Trust, A Comprehensive Management Proposal for the San Rafael Swell. Both documents are included as appendices in this Plan and may be consulted for additional statements and explanation of Emery County's views and policies regarding Public Lands.

Tourism and Recreation:

The reputation of Emery County as a place of scenic beauty has grown throughout the nation and the world. As more tourists and recreationists come here, demand for services is expected to rise, and create economic opportunity as well as stresses on Emery County's rural lifestyle and character.

The development and availability of various types of recreational equipment and personal vehicles has created a new forms of vehicular recreation both motorized and non- motorized for which much of Emery County is well-suited. These, as well as the growth of other established forms of outdoor recreation, have resulted in increased numbers of recreationists attracted to this area.

Remaining changes to the county plan will be published in the next edition of the Emery County Progress on Sept. 7.


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August 31, 2004
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