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Front Page » March 19, 2002 » Local News » Public Land Issues Take Center Stage
Published 5,456 days ago

Public Land Issues Take Center Stage

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Staff Writer

The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on March 12 at 10 a.m. in the courthouse. Those members present were Chairman Dennis Worwood, Vernell Rowley, Kirk Johansen, Joe Fielder, Tom Roush, Wes Curtis and Val Payne.

The first item on the agenda was the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting. The subcommittee reports were next on the agenda. Worwood said Craig Johansen was attending meetings on water in St. George and could not be in attendance at this meeting. Worwood mentioned the Blackham Bill which allows water to be sold outside of the drainage. One worry with this bill is that Los Angeles or Las Vegas could buy up water and smaller cities and counties couldn't out bid them.

Roush said he had attended his first meeting on the recreation subcommittee and he was impressed with how organized they are. Margaret Swasey who is a member of the recreation subcommittee said, "Public Lands Day will be held at Swasey's Cabin this year at the head of Sinbad. I went out with the Bureau of Land Management and we checked the site over. We will be doing restoration work on the cabin, resodding the roof. We will be taking down and putting up fencing. We will fence around the cabin so the cows don't get into the cabin. We will install a toilet, improve the parking lot area. A post and rail fence will be installed. We will do some recontouring where the old road is located. We will recontour by the cabin and do some reseeding. We will fence the archaeological area. The date is set for Sept. 28. There are a whole gamut of projects to be completed," said Swasey.

Kathleen Truman was next on the agenda. She said, "The cowboy poetry book is almost together and we will be moving it along in the next month or so. We have $20,000 for community information signs for each of the communities. Rosann Fillmore and I have been around to all the city council meetings and everybody is excited. Each community will come up with their own information to go on the signs and can place them in their parks or wherever they choose to put them. It will serve as a branding of the county," said Truman.

Worwood reported that the grazing subcommittee is working with the agencies to identify projects to work on and that is moving forward. Training for the cattleman groups will also occur later in the year.

Fielder reported on the land exchange, "We are just figuring out where we are and where we are headed. I've talked to SITLA and their focus is to make as much money from the lands as they possibly can. They want information from Emery County to see what lands we'd want to keep and what we are willing to trade. We don't have enough information yet. We will take our recommendations to the commission and they will decide what is the right way to go," said Fielder.

Worwood pointed out the federal agency involved and SITLA will make the final decision. They will consider Emery County comments in the process.

BLM acting field manager, Tom Rasmussen was next on the agenda. He said, "We have been speaking to the Emery County Sheriff's Office and the Carbon County Sheriff's Office for additional law enforcement for the desert during Easter weekend. We will have additional BLM people out as well. The San Rafael Route Designation came out on Feb. 7 and public comments will be taken through March 22. Most of the comments to date have been prowilderness.

"Phillips is drilling numerous wells, most of these are single pad angle drilling, on forest, private land and BLM. Most are in Carbon County with some in Emery County. The Flat Top and north of Humbug have become a hot bed for oil and gas leasing. We recently flew over the area in a helicopter. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is opposing leasing in those areas. The gas companies are also trying to lease areas west of Green River on Highway 24 in the San Rafael desert and near Blanding and Moab.

"In the Lila Canyon land appeals they have been give a temporary notice to proceed and have been issued a new mine permit," said Rasmussen.

Steve Behling from Consol said they were looking at three options. Two of which are looking at new portal sites and the other option would be going in at the existing workings. They are still in the decision making process although they are committed to reactivating the mine and want to do so in the quickest most productive way.

Rasmussen said, "We flew the wild horses at Range Creek and Cedar Ridge. The Robbers Roost herd numbers approximately 80 horses.

"We have had 10-12,000 comments on land use planning. About 541 comments originated from Eugene, Ore. and all said the same thing. We will analyze the comments and we are working on mineral reports. We are also working with the American Quarter Horse Association on a trail ride they want to hold at the head of Sinbad," said Rasmussen.

The forest service update was next on the agenda. Bill Broadbear explained the Arapeen Trail System. "The system is in its final stages of putting together the map. It has been scrutinized by a lot of folks. What we are trying to do is feature opportunities for riders and let them know where they can go. The highlighted routes are consistent with the forest service travel plan we've had for 15 years. The people in Sanpete had neat routes vice versus. Now the map connects those trails from east to west. It is 90 percent signed and marked with a difficulty rating.

"We've had input from the state people and the OHV community. We've heard from both sides and had a lot of public input. We will do the final edits and start producing these maps. We are saying here's where you can go and here's what's open for your use. The Skyline Drive is the backbone for the trail system.

"You can tie into it from both sides of the mountain. The trails are also marked with reassurance markers to keep people on the trail. It also indicates which roads are not part of the trail and just user created roads and it indicates they are not for use. It creates loops and riding opportunities," said Broadbear.

John Healy from the forest service said this new map will be a supplement to the travel map and the roads analysis may add trails or take them away.

Broadbear said, "We want to give these maps away. With the signing they will know where they can go. We want the focus to be on where they can go. We've been working on the signing for a year and we are getting pretty close. These are single track trails.

"We are planning improvements at Willow Lake up Ferron Canyon. We are going to gravel the road to the camp site. There are 10 or 12 camping spots that will be graveled and a fire ring will be built at each site. We would like to turn this into a fee area when the work is in place. We would like feedback on this. The proposed fee would be $3 per vehicle for overnight camping,"

Payne wondered what the reaction to the fees at Potters Pond has been. The forest service responded the comments have been positive and this summer will be the first where Potters Pond will have a host couple.

Payne said, "Have the improvements led to more appropriate use?" The response was yes for the most part that was the case with a few complaints by campers on people shooting closeby camp and inappropriate ATV use. The presence of a host couple will help control what's going on.

Broadbear said the improvements at Willow Lake will be complete by August and that charging fees will help recoup those costs and also help with maintenance.

Another project Broadbear has been working on is in the Lake Canyon area where Millers Flat road hits State Route 31. The first three miles along that stretch is filled with dispersed camping sites. Money has been set aside to treat these dispersed sites. "We will fix roads, gravel, put up barriers and install designated fire rings. Work is also planned on ATV trails as part of the improvement work. An engineer from Oregon who designs trails back there came out and stayed eight days last summer. He was amazed by the people in that area and the number of ATV riders, many who rode two or three people on one ATV. He was shocked by the amount of use the area gets. He proposed a trail system that interconnects the campsites.

"One trail along an old road bed up Spring Canyon will connect to Skyline and give a longer riding opportunity in the area. Play areas where they can ride in close proximity to the campsites is being proposed. A scoping letter will be sent to permittees in the area and to the lands council. This would be part of the Arapeen system," said Broadbear.

Elaine Zieroth from the forest service spoke next. She said, "There were 14 small avalanches on top last week. Some people were buried but they had emergency transponders and were dug out quickly.

"The last forest service plan was completed in 1986. Every 15 years the plan is revised and we are a little overdue but we are starting into the process this year. It will take approximately four years to complete. So we have a lot of time to involve the public. We will determine what areas remain roadless and where we want access. Also which areas will have wilderness status. These are big issues and we want to involve the public. We want to do a better job determining sociological and economic status. We want to invite the counties and the cooperating agencies to be full players. We want to determine what importance the forest has to the county. We are about six months away from the public involvement phase. Maps submitted by the special interest groups recommend 90 percent of the forest be wilderness," said Zieroth.

Curtis said he appreciated the willingness of the forest service to open the door to partner with the county for input.

Zieroth said, "The new chief said counties are the real key in finding effective ways to use input.

"We want to revise the amendment on natural fire. We would like to use it on the forest for management to create forage and take out the dead stuff. We will identify those spots on the map where natural fire might be useful. Areas not close to private land and large enough areas. Some years it wouldn't be used but some years it might be beneficial. There were 98 fires last year in the forest that probably wouldn't have done any harm and burned out on their own without wasting resources and manpower to put them out," said Zieroth.

Paul Conover said, "We have worked hard on the Arapeen trail map. When people complain just remind them that the travel map is the law. The trails on the Arapeen are for OHV use not for jeeps.

"We want seamless systems. The Arapeen trail will work on a connector system to connect the forest to the communities and into the reef area.

The project to place a bridge at the Black Dragon Trail picnic grounds was discussed. It will be placed at a narrow spot and the bridge will be set without disturbance to the streambanks.

Conover said the bridge will not be narrower than six feet wide and would be 80 feet long. No full sized vehicles would be allowed on the bridge.

The next item on the agenda was the update on the Temple Mountain reclamation project. Payne said the contractor is on site now and that he had toured the site with the contractor and offered input. He said projects of this kind have not always been sensitive to the historical significance of a site, but this one is. They will be covering the portals with materials, but will leave them visible so visitors can get a feel for the area. There will be no dismantling of structures. The contractor asked if the county was interested in stabilizing the tipple. The county expressed interest but no further action has been taken.

Rowley said they had started on March 11 reclaiming the mines. He said there are 140 mines they are doing something with. They will be fencing the mine shafts, filling pits and filling inclines, It will take three months to do the project. Some sites will be left open for now so the historical society can document them with photos before the reclamation work is done on them.

The next item on the agenda was the presentation on the Seely Guard Station. The barn at the station was built in 1933 or 34, the garage was built in 1934 and the house was built in 1907 and was partially destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1933-34.

The station has played a part in history. Proposed improvements to stop the deterioration of the facility include pumping the latrine and filling it with dirt, restricting the entry of rodents, patching holes, cleaning inside and out and supporting the garage would be in cluded in the first phase. The second phase would include patching the barn roof, repairing windows, removing paint and applying stain to the house. The third phase would include shingles, staining the roof, removing and replacing the porch, screens and shutters, repair doors, and repair the chimney. The fourth phase would include repairs inside the house and garage.

Possible uses for the restored station could include a rustic cabin and barn available for year round rental. The garage could be moved to serve as a warming station for crosscountry skiers and snowmobilers. Also it could be used as a rustic ATV riders stopover and camping facility.

Conover mentioned his snowmobiling club was somewhat interested in helping with the restoration. The station qualifies for the National Register.

The next item on the agenda was the discussion of the Quitchupah Draft EIS. Worwood explained the four draft proposals. The public lands council has chosen Alternative D-Waterhollow route with modifications which include the continued trailing of livestock and ATV access. Payne explained this choice as the one which addressed the public concerns which had been expressed to the public lands council such as avoiding the Native American rock art sites.

The recommendation was ratified as the official recommendation of the lands council. The Heritage Bill is in the hopper and is officially know as HR-3876. There are two other Heritage Bills being introduced this year; the Highway 89 Heritage area and the Great Basin Heritage Area in Millard County.

The public lands council will be conducting public information meetings to bring the public up to speed on the monument and to receive public comment. The President wants the public process before designation not after. The first meeting will be held on Fri. March 22 from 6-9 p.m. at Green River High School in Green River. The second meeting will be conducted on Sat. March 23 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Emery High School Auditorium in Castle Dale. The focus of this meeting will be access and travel as it relates to the monument. The second set of meetings will be held on April 3 and 4 with times and locations to be announced. All issues concerning the monument such as water rights, grazing, tourism and heritage sites will be discussed.

Curtis proposed the land council ask the BLM to extend their comment period for the travel plan so it can include the information gathered at the public meetings.

Payne pointed out that the draft monument proposal will be designed by the public meetings and hearings.

Conover wondered about the possibility of putting the monument proposal on the ballot to be voted on by county residents. Worwood said that would be left to the commissioners to decide.

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