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Front Page » February 21, 2006 » Local News » Commission Hears DWR Update on Elk Herds
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Commission Hears DWR Update on Elk Herds

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Staff Writer

These elk make their home at the Castle Valley Ranch.

The Emery County Commission approved the resolution authorizing the issuance and sale of $1,228,000 aggregate principal amount of general obligation public purpose bonds for the Castle Valley Special Service district. The partial grant and loan will close March 17. These funds will be used for projects this summer including street projects, drainage projects, curb and gutter projects as well as a water project. Emery County voters approved a $12 million bond in November of 2001. Of this bond $6.8 million has been used with $5.2 million left.

Derris Jones, Division of Wildlife Resources regional director presented the commission with a check for payments in lieu of taxes on DWR land in the county. The check was for $2,751. Jones said the division is in the process of redoing deer management plans and looking at deer objectives. They hope to tie deer numbers to objectives with more science involved in the process. This will be discussed at a Regional Advisory Committee meeting in the near future. Jones said he will also bring the information to the Emery County Public Lands council.

The division is also on a three year rotation on elk counts. They recently counted the Range Creek unit and the objective there is 1,000 head and 1,900 were counted.

"They are well over the objective there with a lot of that unit being on private land. With the drier winters they don't come off the private land and we need to work to figure out how to handle these elk, some of the landowners would like to see the objective number raised. It's tough with the private land and there is division among the landowners themselves. It's a balancing act right now with the elk on private land. The unit contains two CWMUs. The public land is limited entry and some land owners get land owners permits along with the CWMUs.

"On the Manti we are managing the bull herd with the age objective at 4-5 years old. The average age now is 7.2 years. We have been adding tags and having battles with sportsmen. No age data is back yet on the November hunt. The elk seem to be climbing in age with 7 years being the average. We have to get headed to the objective," said Jones.

Commissioner Ira Hatch wondered if the hunter mentality was to want bigger bulls. Jones said the opportunity for big bulls still exist but there is enough country there to hide in and get bigger, but hunters have to work harder to get a big bull. Jones said they have made it easy for hunters to be selective with an abundance of big bulls.

The division is also working on a statewide bison plan. Bison may be transplanted to the northside of the Bookcliff. Jones said the majority of the landowners on the northside feel comfortable with the prospects of bison. Commissioner Drew Sitterud wondered about the buffalo in Range Creek. Jones said there is a report of two-three male bison in Range Creek, but there isn't a lot of potential there because it is too steep for the buffalo. The herd of buffalo on Antelope Island is a private herd owned by state parks, and it is part of the DWRs draw system.

Jones said meetings are still taking place on the resource management plan for Range Creek. Anyone wishing to use the canyon should submit written proposals for dates for activities in the canyon to the division. A DWR representative would go with groups into the canyon. The canyon is open April 15-Oct. Last year the day use permits issued were used 60 percent by out of state visitors and only 5 percent used by locals, with not one permit being used by an Emery County person. The Emery County Historical Society did host a day trip into the canyon. Carbon County Recreation was quite active in bringing groups into the canyon.

This summer the Emery County economic development council is also working to bring an educational camp into the canyon with the details being worked out with the University of Utah.

The division's lease is up in 2007 for their current location and a natural resources building to house the state agencies is being considered. Commissioner Sitterud said they're welcome to build anywhere in Emery County.

Jones said they try to keep the elk off of SR-10 and out of the farmers fields in Elmo and have issued land owner permits and they send personnel out to chase them back into the hills. They are also working with UDOT on SR-6 on structures which allow deer or elk to cross under the highway, with fencing along the highways. "They need crossing structures, not just fences," said Jones. "People need to use extreme caution when traveling the mountain roads because the wildlife congregate along the highway for the first green grass and the salt used on the roads is very attractive to the wildlife. The deer population is still 40 percent below objective but they are coming up," said Jones.

Mary Huntington, personnel director for the county brought a release of liability contract to the commission for approval. The contract is for people renting county owned facilities and would need to be signed before use of the facility.

Commissioner Hatch suggested that groups who use the buildings on a regular basis should sign a yearly agreement as signing one weekly could become problematic. Also a commissioner has to sign the contract as well. The commissioners approved the contract with the changes.

The commission approved a cell phone reimbursement for county employees Morris Sorensen and Dennis Fuller.

The commission approved a stipulation to amend the order in the matter of the Lila Canyon Extension to the Horse Canyon mine. Commissioner Hatch said the Lila Canyon Mine is moving slowly now and they have had to start over on some issues because of all the changes in state people who weren't familiar with the issue.

The commission approved the cooperative agreement with the Utah State University extension office in Castle Dale. The county provides office space and support staff for the extension office.

County treasurer Steve Barton discussed with the commission the need for a minimum tax. He said his office is issuing tax notices for 17 cents or 19 cents and people wonder why this is done since it costs more for postage than the tax due. There are 1,100 properties on the tax rolls with taxes under $5. Some counties have a minimum assessed value, but Emery County doesn't. It was determined that a committee would look at the issue and the legal aspects involved before making a decision. Commissioner Gary Kofford said they would need an answer quickly before tax notices are mailed out again.

The commissioners approved a resolution for the annexation of certain properties in Emery County into the Price River Water Improvement District with the stipulation that county recorder, Dixie Swasey go over the property descriptions.

Commissioner Kofford reported that last spring they had accepted bids on the removal of an old scales at the sheriff's office. Ernest Jensen's bid was to tear out and remove the old scales and backfill the hole but leave the cement abutments. Commissioner Hatch suggested they ask him to also remove the abutments.

The commission ratified the LEPC coordinator, Cynthia Grant. The commission approved a business license for Kyle Fox in Lawrence for a tack shop.

Clerk Bruce Funk reported on the testing of the Diebold election machines saying that out of 40 tested, six had failed and two of those had been repaired and the other four sent back. Funk said the state was supposed to have tested the machines before bringing them to the county. Bad batteries and jammed printers have been part of the problem and some of the machines have old elections still on them. The election judges will need more extensive training on use of the new machines and Funk wondered if an increase in wages for the election judges was needed. He also expressed the need for a trailer to take the machines to the election sites. There is also a question of security once the machines arrive at the sites.

Commissioner Hatch said to check on the availability of a county owned trailer or if there isn't one that will work then just rent one for the transportation of the machines.

Commissioner Kofford stressed the need for the county to decide what it wants to do with the old sheriff's office as it is still paying power and gas on the building.

In the commissioner reports, Commissioner Sitterud said he had met with the addressing committee and they will meet again on March 1 in Richfield. They are moving through the rest of the state and coordinating the names of B roads for now.

Commissioner Sitterud also reported a wake board competition will be held the first weekend of June at the Huntington North Reservoir in conjunction with the state parks effort to get more people and events surrounding the parks. Six scout troops have also signed up for a steal the flag event to be held at Goblin Valley State Park in July. The fair board has met twice and plans are underway for the fair in August.

Commissioner Hatch reported that he and Commissioner Kofford had met with the BLM and Johansen and Tuttle on the Eagle Canyon overlook and hope to come up with a plan to maintain the overlook with the construction on the Moore cut-off road.

Hatch also met with the historic preservation commission to discuss the Muddy Creek kiosk and its location. UDOT suggested the location of the kiosk be moved closer to the bridge.

The county held a defensive driving course where 56 people attended.

The next commission meeting will be held on Feb. 21 at 9 a.m.

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