Hundreds of people young and old gathered together on April 13 for the Third Annual Southeastern Utah OHV Club Poker Ride. The event which started out as just an idea, has now grown into what is looked forward to every year by people and families all across Utah. The Poker Ride is not to be confused with a race. It is a game and the object is to receive the highest poker hand. The more tickets you have the better your chances become.
The latest predictions for Emery County show that we will have about one-half of our normal stream flow. The Natural Resources Conservation Service recently released the April 2002 Stream Flow Forecast Probability Chart for Utah. It shows that the expected stream flow forecast for Huntington Creek is 48 percent of average, Joe's Valley Reservoir In Flow is 48 percent of average, Ferron Creek is 54 percent of average and Muddy Creek is 55 percent of average.
These stream flow forecasts are based upon several factors. Among the most important of these factors is the snow pack that is present on the snow measuring sites (Snowtel Sites) on the date of April 1. The snow water equivalent (inches of water in the snow pack) is compared from year to year and used to help predict the runoff and stream flow. This year on April 1, the snow water equivalent's (SWE) were the sixth or an example, on the Seeley Creek Station; the SWE was 9.70 inches this year. The lowest ever recorded was in 1977 when the SWE was only 7.2 inches. Other years that were lower than 2002 include 1934, 1956,1959,1981 and 1999.
Utah is the second driest state in the union. We had a very dry year in 1999, low years in 2000-2001 and a very dry year again in 2002. Four years in a row of below average water means that Emery County is in for a dry year, one of the driest ever. We can expect to have only about one half of our normal stream flow.
The cities and the Castle Valley Special Service District have been very concerned with the low water predictions. They have decided to turn the secondary irrigation systems on, but warn all users that restrictions will have to be imposed. These restrictions will be on all of the secondary irrigation systems in the county. At a minimum they will curtail the use of any water during the middle of the day. No watering from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. will be allowed. In some cities you will only be allowed to water on two days during the week. Everyone needs to contact their city to see what restrictions apply in their area.
Darrel Leamaster, the manager of the CVSSD, advises all of the secondary irrigation users to think and plan how they can reduce their water use by one-half. If everyone works toward water conservation we will be able to get through the year. If people waste water, we could be out of water by August and have to shut the secondary irrigation systems off. Hopefully, with careful use and planning we can get through the year. We may not have the prettiest lawns and gardens, but hopefully we will have enough water to keep them alive.
Leamaster also cautioned that users cannot use the drinking water system for outside watering. Many people mistakenly believe that if the secondary irrigation system runs out of water then they could use the drinking water system for outside watering. This isn't possible because the cities own only a fixed number of shares of stock in the canal companies. This entitles them to the quantity of water allocated to those shares. When that water is gone, the cities are out of water and can't use any more, either out of the drinking water system, or the secondary irrigation system. Also, the drinking water is treated water and is much more expensive water to produce. So don't plan on using any drinking water for irrigation or sprinkling purposes. The cities will be responsible for monitoring the irrigation system to make sure that the schedules and turn systems are adhered to. The penalties for violations are still being decided upon. However, most cities are considering a verbal warning for first time violators; second time, written notice; and shutting the water off and accessing a fine for a third violation. Rather than violations and fines, the district and cities are confident that everyone will cooperate and help conserve water. They believe that if everyone is careful we can get through the year.
Another in the series of public meetings to discuss the monument proposal was held on April 10 at the Museum of the San Rafael. The meeting was sponsored by the Emery County Public Lands Council, the Emery County Farm Bureau and the Emery County Economic Development Council. Dennis Worwood, chairman of the lands council welcomed the public and introduced the speakers.
Worwood spoke of the history of the Swell and the ongoing efforts to protect the area started in the 30s with talk of making the Swell a national park at that time. Proposals in the 70s looked at designating the Swell as a National Conservation Area. Wilderness proponents have looked at the Swell and wilderness inventories have been conducted by various wilderness groups. A different variation of the NCA was submitted in the year 2000 and was voted on and defeated. Worwood spoke of the possibilities opened up with the Bush administration in office. He described the Swell as being a cherished area. The objective was to partner with President Bush and the Department of the Interior from the beginning of the process. The monument proposal would state the objectives and concerns of the county. The monument proposal would be similar to the legislation introduced in 1998 which was discussed widely in the cities. It is a somewhat familiar starting point for discussion of the monument.
Worwood stated their objective in holding these meetings 'is to bring in people who can bring in good information for public comments.' The council will compile the comments, formulate a proposal and make a recommendation to the county commission on how to proceed. Worwood said they need the comments to be specific regarding language to be written into the proposal, monument boundaries, grazing, access and other areas of concern. The lands council will record all comments.
Worwood said the four maps listing the four alternatives of the Bureau of Land Management's travel plan were displayed on the back wall. These maps were put together by Val Payne of the lands council to give a clearer idea on the roads which would be closed or left open under each alternative.
Worwood introduced Jeff Durrant of the Brigham Young University Geography Department to the meeting. Durrant talked of the research he has done on the San Rafael and impacts of land use on the Swell. He displayed maps of the area with information ranchers had supplied him with detailing their use and how they access their allotments and water in these areas. The boundaries of the Wilderness Study Areas are also outlined on the maps with details of the allotments in those areas as well. Durrant offered the maps for the county's use and invited the ranchers present to add to the maps if they had more information.
Worwood said that Margaret Swasey of the recreation subcommittee for the lands council has been recognized as one of 12 volunteers nationwide for their work on public lands. Swasey has been instrumental in the work accomplished on public lands days at Copper Globe, the Wedge and the dinosaur quarry. Worwood congratulated Swasey on this achievement.
Worwood then introduced Karl Ivory to the meeting. Ivory is from the Price BLM Office. Ivory said he has been with the Price office for 14 years. He said, "I will give a brief overview of the standards and guidelines pertaining to the BLM and grazing. The BLM manages 2.1 million acres in Emery and Carbon counties. There are 182 grazers and 183 grazing allotments, with 94,000 aums. This area includes four wild horse and burro management areas with 225 horses and 70 burros. The monument proposal in question will effect 39 grazing permittees and 37 grazing allotments. A standards and guidelines assessment is completed as part of the National Environmental Protection Act for each permit as they come up for renewal. These guidelines and standards are nationwide.
"The BLM manages rangeland on four fundamental levels. They see to it that the watersheds are functioning properly and the soil is still holding plants. Some areas are more productive than others. Each area is maintained at its capability. We maintain water quality standards, habitats for threatened or endangered species and keep the rangeland viable economically. The four fundamentals tie in to the national standards. We work to accelerate and restore and improve rangelands. We work to sustain the western livestock industry and communities that are dependant on livestock.
"Each state also works on their own standards. The Utah Standards took about 18 months to complete. There was consultation, coordination and public participation. The rangeland health team held public meetings and sent out public mailings. One thousand, nine hundred and fifty copies of the draft document were sent out to mainly permittees and of that 1950 only 39 responses were received. Fifty-two people attended six meetings held in various parts of the state and 16 people provided comments. There was low interest in the Utah Standards. Several organizations including OHV people, wildlife, RAC board, ranchers, archaeology community all responded to the comments and put the finishing touch on the standards. They were approved by the governor and sent to the Secretary of the Interior who approved them on May 20, 1997.
"The standards and guidelines are a description of the desired condition of the rangeland. Standards are measurable and attainable. Indicators are features of an ecosystem that can be measured or observed such as soil litter, plant diversity, plant health and so forth. Guidelines help grazing management. There are also guidelines for recreation, timber, oil and gas and mining.
"We identify and prescribe methods of rehabilitation for rangeland. We look at uplands soils and see if they demonstrate permeability and infiltration. We look at cover and litter and the vegetation's abilities to hold water. We check on eroding gullies. We check the riparian and wetlands areas to see if they are properly functioning. We check streams and rivers to see if they are holding their waters in the channels. We check to see if the stream provides proper vegetation to provide food and cover for wildlife.
"We check the desired species habitats to see that they are being maintained by the presence of the desired species. We check for water quality. There are 14 guidelines for water quality with subparts on each. Water guidelines include grazing management practices, vegetation maintenance, meeting plants physiological needs in uplands and riparian areas. Rangeland improvements are monitored to be consistent with standards established in the NEPA document. Salt blocks and mineral supplements are kept away from riparian areas. Intensive grazing and fire are used for management as well. Something biological is tried first on an area.
"We monitor quality of recreation and campsites for their aesthetic value. We work to restore native species and nonintrusive species. The feeding of hay or supplements is only used in an emergency and then weed-free hay is allowed to avoid the spread of noxious weeds. We also look at areas that are not maintaining these standards and figure out why they are not and what we can do to fix it. There is usually more than one reason why an area isn't meeting the standard. It could be because of wild horses, elk or other reasons. Adjustments are made for each animal.
"Sometimes the rangeland is burned and reseeded. These areas are rested for two years to give them a chance to rehabilitate. We also work in areas where there is a conversion of livestock from one species to another. We monitor and work with ranchers on assessment and interpretation of data on their allotment. We determine what to do on an allotment to help it meet the standard. We develop a plan of action.
"Currently 53 of the 183 allotments have been evaluated. Of the 780,000 acres evaluated, 685,000 are meeting the standards and 95,000 acres are operating at risk. We are currently taking action on three of these areas that are operating at risk. The Coal Creek allotment north of Price is a chained area. Six to eight permittees are on the allotment and have agreed to a 15 percent reduction. Of the 15,000 acres, 12,000 are not meeting standards due to loss of grasses and pinon and juniper coming back. Action is being taken, the riparian area has been fenced; there has been some pond cleaning. A prescribed burn is also being planned, but we will have to work around the gas wells in the area.
"The Dugout allotment 15 miles south of Green River is at risk because the rice grass plants are dead due to the drought. There are 6,000 acres there not meeting the standard. This area has hardly been grazed at all for 10 years. The area will not be grazed when the plants begin to grow, but only grazed in the winter.
"An area of the Black Dragon is also being looked at. The water quality of the San Rafael River does not meet the state water quality standards. The uplands are meeting the standards which indicated the problem is not caused by cattle grazing.
"We are getting people involved, a number of permits expired in Feb. 2002. We sent permittees letters indicating when we would be evaluating their allotment and they could meet with us. We are currently assessing eight allotments from the Buckhorn to Hidden Splendor. We try to keep the public informed as to which allotments we are working on," said Ivory.
Worwood thanked Ivory for the BLM information and introduced Richard Nicholas from the Utah Cattlemen's Association to the meeting.
Nicholas said he was there to explain the position of the UCA as it relates to the monument. "My comments might be controversial but I hope to give valuable information as you make the decision to proceed or not. I spoke with the President of the UCA last night and this morning and he said he was extremely concerned and upset that Governor Leavitt has contacted President Bush to make this a monument. He is offended by this action and views it as unprofessional and inappropriate. While we were still deciding he's put the wheels in motion. Governor Leavitt has broken his promise. We are currently arranging a meeting with the governor to discuss this.
"The UCA expressed outrage at the designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The UCA supports legislative action to keep this from happening in the future," said Nicholas.
Nicholas read from the Republican Party Platform which stated their opposition of the designation of the GSENM and their desire for a reversal from the Supreme Court.
"The monument proposal here is a mixed bag, some support it and some are cautious, worried and uncertain. It may answer some problems but you're not sure. One incentive is to try to limit wilderness or future wilderness. It's a common concern. First of all to make a monument in hopes of keeping at bay future wilderness is like finding a bear in your backyard and throwing him a lamb so he won't eat your kids. If there is a change in administration, wilderness could still be designated. There's no protection in that philosophy.
"In Box Elder county and others there are lawsuits by Western Watersheds appealing grazing rights. It's difficult to build a consensus when one of the parties isn't interested.
"Your legislation for a conservation area was opposed by the environmental groups in 1998. Their big concern is to have more wilderness. Making a monument will not satisfy them. The crux of the issue...this monument will be different. The GSENM was done in the dark. This will be done the right way. You will structure the way you can live with it. Your hometown version of the monument is against the law. The process states all interested parties come to the table. The National Conservation Area didn't work. Why will a monument work? You can't by law make it how you want it. It will change dramatically because other people have to comment. All you have is a veil of hope.
"Congressman Jim Hansen said monuments by nature are restrictive. If you're not going to change too much by making it a monument then why do it. You have concerns with ATVs and other separate issues. First you need to decide first if you want a monument.
"Using the Antiquities Act to make the monument is an abuse of the act. It specifically states that the archaeological or historical site should use the smallest acreage possible to identify the site. It doesn't have to take 600,000 acres to do that. Everyone bellyached about the GSENM and now you're entertaining the idea to do something similar.
"I learned while at the Rangeland Conference in St. George this January that the endangered species act is not about protecting the species but about identifying the land and locking it up and the people lose.
"In the GSENM proclamation on page 42 President Clinton stated that 'all present grazing will be maintained and managed and no grazing would be threatened. Since that time 325,000 acres within the monument have been permanently retired. The process began six months after the designation. You can't guaranteed that won't happen here. I have deep feelings about this country, but it has a sorry track record on keeping promises. Look at what happened to the Native Americans. Garfield County is protesting this loss of grazing.
"You need to read history and learn from it. Experience shows you won't get what you want. The Grand Canyon Trust is working to eliminate grazing. Sixteen thousand aums have been lost which adds up to $6 million a year lost to the counties from these eliminations.
"The establishment of the GSENM set the stage for the Grand Canyon Trust and the most significant grazing retirements in history.
"Why set the stage? A monument is different it is scrutinized more. It's a whole different thing. Whey set the stage to eliminate grazing?
"It's your choice, but it is my opinion if you choose to go that route your credibility will be greatly diminished. I've talked to Commissioner Randy Johnson and he said you don't have to have it if you don't want it. I have two statements that might help you. I know you're kind of worn-out from the environmentalists. I am too. I am tired of it. The public lands issues are a war. Each is a battle, it's not going to do any good to gripe and moan at your buddy or your wife. If you don't like it, you've got to go to someone who can fix it. Get involved in the public process and fight for what you think you have or just walk away," said Nicholas.
Nicholas quoted from Abraham Lincoln about the duties of the people to maintain their own liberties and institutions. Nicholas concluded by saying how things have changed. "I am concerned about it and want you to seriously consider it, because you will live with it. You will rue the day you did it. The government already has too much control. There are concerns but there's just better ways to do it," he said.
Dell LaFevre, Garfield county commissioner and local rancher spoke to the audience next. "I've been feuding with the government for years. Right now though we're getting along. I think the GSENM was created because of coal. We're sitting on the largest coal reserve in North America and Clinton wanted cheap Asian coal. Before the monument was created we had 16 employees working for BLM in Kane and Garfield counties. Now we have 124 employees, there's a lot of spies up there. I'm glad you have to make this decision.
"I had 24 cows and 16 calves shot, things were getting tough. I swore I'd kill the guy if I found him and just say I was having flashbacks. Things got bad along the river. The allotments the Grand Canyon Trust bought out were marginal allotments and they are now out of action.
"There were mistakes made on both sides of the trespass cows on the monument. I worry the most because the whiskey drinking range con (conservation manager) on a horse is gone. There's no one out there on a horse. I built 17 miles of fence on the monument. I have a good working relationship now. You can create relationships. I don't trust Leavitt, I trust Bush, but we won't have him forever. There are pros and cons. I say if you can get protection then do it," said LaFevre.
The meeting then went into breakout sessions where attendees voiced their opinions which were recorded.
The group came together again and the facilitators read the comments. Many opinions were expressed. A brief synopsis of the comments were: no monument, we own the land why give it away? It won't stop the WSAs. No monument, because there are no guarantees. RS2477 roads will guarantee right of ways. No monument, can't trust the government, no guarantee, no protection, don't add more regulations to what we already have. Bring it to a vote. Elimination of grazing will take away rancher's livelihood. No more federal employees to increase our taxes to pay for them. Grand Canyon Trust didn't force people to sell their allotments. The federal government didn't take them away, the people sold of their own free will. Protections are already in place. Check into rangeland protection programs that are grass roots organized. Doing the same thing as the GSENM did. Apprehension that the final proposal would not be the same as what the county drafts. Will things stay the same? Supporters of grazing as long as it adheres to BLM standards. Wants local control of monument. Opposed to wilderness. Wants free access to all lands, doesn't need a guide or a bus. Wants continued grazing. Doesn't want commercialization. No monument should preclude access to the land. Will support if locals have a say. Wants grazing protected in the whole county, not just the desert. Why protect the land from itself? Would support if strong language protecting grazing as it is now could be guaranteed. If we can have what we want then great, if not then against it. Why are we considering a monument? What would we gain and what would we lose? Does adding federal employees help economically? Leave the Swell alone, but fight for multiple use in court.
Worwood answered a few questions from the audience. Someone wondered if the lands council had met with environmental groups. Worwood answered yes, they had but had not discussed the monument. Worwood said, "Congressman Wayne Owens stood before Congress and asked for 5.4 million acres in wilderness. He knew they would not get that much but that was their starting point. Between 1992 and 1995 they came up with a wilderness policy which shifted to the left. There would be no compromise. We met with the environmental community to ask them to take a second look at roads which they agreed to do."
One cattleman spoke of the money he has invested in grazing allotments and would like some ownership in the wording of a monument proposal.
Nicholas said the BLM doesn't place value on livestock permits by law.
Worwood spoke of the Nez Perce' National Park which has separate sites but make up one park. He said their are several options available to Emery County as possible tourist attractions.
The point was made that the county's wording should not be changed if indeed a proposal did go forth.
Worwood said he appreciated everyone coming.
"Whether you agree or disagree we need to have these discussions here and not at the White House. It is the county's intent to protect grazing. The county intends to protect access. The county has spent a lot of money with the GIS mapping of the roads. Val has spent countless hours on the maps for the BLM travel plan.
"The county has looked at a lot of things to have a say. There was a 9 million acre wilderness bill put forward which generated wilderness in Alaska. This bill is being used as a model for the America's Red Rock Wilderness Bill. The county feels strongly about the proposal to rezone one half of our county as wilderness. We need a voice. We have been denied a voice in grazing and water.
"Rep. Hinchey is sponsoring the bill to rezone 49.5 percent of our county and the people in Congress agree with him. We need to find our own process. The RS2477 is an alternative process.
"The wilderness folks did a roads analysis. We are going ahead with our own process we want everything looked at and factored into it.
"The commissioners are doing a risky thing. Especially in an election year. Let's take a look. Whether you agree or disagree the commissioners are looking out for the interest of the county above their own interests," concluded Worwood.