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Front Page » March 15, 2005 » Opinion » Emery County enlists help of Washington Representatives
Published 4,364 days ago

Emery County enlists help of Washington Representatives

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Emery County Commissioners and public lands council recently sent copies of this letter to the Washington representatives stating the position of the county on the BLM- RMP.

Emery County is in the midst of the Price Field Office Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan which will determine the future policy direction, economic growth opportunities and general land use for the citizens of our county for the next 20 years or more. With the exception of congressional or presidential designation, there is no action that may be taken by the federal government that affects the people of Emery County to a greater extent than land use plans developed by federal agencies, principally BLM and forest service. Ninety-two percent of the land in Emery County is public land (federal or state). The BLM RMP will determine how over 2 million acres, or 72 percent of the land within Emery County is managed. For this reason, county representatives as well as citizens put a very high priority on following BLM Director Kathleen Clark's council to assume our rightful role (under FLPMA) at the table as a cooperating agency. It is our desire to work with BLM to develop a plan that represents Emery County's priorities, and that will help sustain a viable economic base for the county's residents.

The issues identified through the BLM scoping meetings reflect the diversity of the resources in the planning area and the people that depend on them. Residents of the county have long recognized and enjoyed the economic benefit of many of those resources and it is our desire that the traditional economic and social aspects of land use be recognized in this plan. We also recognize that more people and more diverse resource uses are increasing all the time. Management priorities recognizing both the descendents of those who settled this remote desert that we now call home, as well as those from outside Emery County can be achieved only if the RMP respects both views. Achieving that objective is our priority.

In the past, federal land use plans have been developed without state or local representation until the draft proposal was made available for a public comment period. Having a seat at the RMP development table throughout this process has certainly been a welcome change, and the contents of the final document will tell whether Emery County's views are fairly represented. We have persevered through heated discussions when, from our perspective, it appeared we were being ineffective in our participation. We have disagreed and voiced that disagreement with BLM specialists and their supervisors. We have solicited input from user groups, our Public Lands Council and other citizens, and provided data and input to the BLM planning team. In some instances we have appealed to the BLM state office and you, our elected representatives in Washington. Emery County has consistently presented our position as represented in the Emery County General Plan.

Although we are not sure of what the final document will look like exactly, you should know that Emery County has invested significant county financial resources and collective effort in this plan, and we are hopeful that the final decision will reflect that investment. We stand firm on the mandate of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 as amended, that this and other land use plans "�shall be consistent with state and local plans to the maximum extent [the Secretary] finds consistent with federal law and the purposes of this act." Emery County's General Plan is based on the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield principles, and expects that these principles be applied in the RMP.

Frankly, the draft RMP caused us much concern and we responded to that effect. The comments we provided during the public comment period addressed the items which concerned us, including inappropriate decisions, inadequate data and a flawed document.

Some issues that cause us the most concern in the Price RMP include:

Misapplication of multiple management tools or "layering". There are a myriad of tools available to the BLM field offices for management. For one segment of land it may be possible to "manage" that segment using Wild and Scenic River designation, Visual Resource Management Class I, Area of Critical Environmental Concern designation, Special Recreation Management Area, closed determination for OHV use, closed to certain activity for wildlife habitat management. While we are aware that it is technically possible for each of these layers to be imposed upon a single area of land, Emery County believes that "wise" management doesn't require all available management tools to be simultaneously imposed. Is an ACEC necessary where The Antiquities Act already affords resource "protection" or where a WSA already exists? Experience shows that such overlap simply confuses professional managers as well as the public at large. Moreover, the area receives little or no focused management and ends up being neglected. For example, under the preferred alternative, the Sid's Mountain area would be managed as a Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA), a "Scenic" Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), Class 1 Visual Resource Management (VRM), "Closed" to Off-highway Vehicle use, "Primitive" and "Semi-primitive non-motorized" designation under the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS), "Closed" to Mineral Material Development, "Recommended for Withdrawal" from Locatable Mineral Entry, "Scenic" classification for Wild and Scenic River designation, and all of these on top of an existing Wilderness Study Area. Other areas with similar "layering" include Mexican Mountain, Desolation Canyon, Lower Green River, and the Muddy River Canyon.

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) should not be used outside the scope for which they were intended. ACECs are meant to protect relevant and important values that are threatened with irreparable damage. What constitutes irreparable damage is debatable. Reclamation plans quite often leave oil and gas well pads functioning better within the ecosystem than before they were disturbed. How are relic vegetation sites threatened with irreparable damage if cattle can't physically gain access to the site because of geographic obstacles? This is the case in the Flat Tops and San Rafael Reef ACECs.

The Draft RMP is inadequate in recognizing impacts to the power generation industry in Emery County. The final document should address the county's concerns about possible new PacifiCorp generating units. How will the plan recognize the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) under the Clean Air Act?

Potential Wild and Scenic River designation is probably the issue which has been the main focus of Emery County. We aren't convinced that designation doesn't come with an absence of a water right or water use of some kind. It seems that if a portion of river is designated based on a river related outstandingly remarkable value, management of that segment that protects that same value will require water.

Emery County has argued continually that running water should be present in an eligible river segment. In at least two segments that the PFO found eligible, the lack of water is such that the same segments were also designated as open OHV routes in the San Rafael Route Designation Plan.

The lack of data concerning socioeconomics in the Draft RMP was disappointing. Much information was available from Carbon and Emery counties, private enterprise and other sources but was not utilized at that time. Emery County submitted information specifically on the electricity generating industry in our comments on Wild and Scenic River designation. Emery County considers this issue unresolved.

A consistent impediment throughout the planning process has been the lack of necessary time and resources available to local BLM Field Office personnel. This has eroded both our confidence and BLMs over whether this RMP could be adequately prepared. Price Field Office personnel have continually operated on timelines established by someone up the ladder, with an urgency driven by "completion within the budget" thinking. Perhaps this has been necessary, perhaps not. Regardless, it has not been realistic in developing the RMP. For example, deadlines are set only to be set again and then, not realized.

Our involvement in Vernal and Richfield RMPs confirm that the problem hasn't been in Price, exclusively.

In order to salvage the significant joint Emery County-BLM effort so far, we request that you intervene with BLM in Washington to make certain that the agency is able to allow both sufficient time and dollars to complete these Resource Management Plans on timely, but realistic schedules.

Emery County is committed to helping produce the best plan possible.

We are grateful to you for acting now to save the investment we have already made on behalf of the citizens of our county.

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