Public lands hears forest service trails analysis
|This ATV trail travels through Ferron Creek. All trails and routes in the Ferron Mountain area are being analyzed.|
Mesia Nyman, from the forest service presented the Ferron roads analysis at the February public lands meeting. She emphasized that the document is an information document in draft form. It is not a decision document which recommends and implements changes. The analysis area includes the Skyline to Ferron Mountain and everything that flows to Ferron Creek.
The roads are looked at and given different levels of risk. Risk factors include: looking at species, habitat needs, indicator species, winter range, calving and fawning risks, etc. Each resource is given a risk value and through the process each route is assigned a risk.
For example a wildlife layer is assigned and that risk could be low to moderate to high depending on the routes relation to wildlife and their calving and fawning areas and winter range considerations.
Each route also has an archaeological layer, a hydrological layer, rangeland layer, etc. Each route is assigned a low, moderate or high for each layer and a value is attached.
A lot of routes have been included in this process including closed routes and user created routes. "This is not a decision document, but recommendations may be taken from the analysis. All of this data is difficult to include in a data base, but we are working to bring our data base up to speed. There are no questions on the main arterial routes, but the controversy comes on level two roads. These roads receive less maintenance or no maintenance. It is important for us to know what the public thinks about certain routes. Do you use it a lot? Is it important to you? We need public input," said Nyman, "We don't have enough funds to maintain all routes."
Nyman said they are in need of public input from ATV groups, rangeland permittees, and the public lands council access committee.
They are also looking at nonmotorized trails which are not numbered and on the system. They are evaluating seasonal closures. These seasonal closures are hard to enforce. "We do receive a lot of public support for seasonal closures to protect roads and give them time to dry out," said Nyman.
Some of the roads involve watershed impacts with surface erosion, and riparian area impacts and also creek crossings. The analysis shows a strong interest from the public in ATV trails. "We have an active OHV community and they do a lot of volunteer work and we're grateful for that, but user created trails and roads are a problem; especially during the hunting season. Most follow the roads but some do not," said Nyman.
If changes need to be made then the NEPA process will be started. This roads analysis is an information document even in its final draft.
The lands council determined that Nyman should work with Ray Petersen and the access committee in regards to the Ferron roads analysis.
The lands council voted to appoint Bruce Wilson as the chairman for the 2006 year with Vernell Rowley as the vice-chairman. Wilson assigned the lands council members their assignments for 2006. Coal bed methane will be Priscilla Burton, coal mining-Gary Petty, forest service-Bruce Wilson, water-Sherrel Ward, recreation-Tory Killian, Dickson Huntington-grazing, SITLA and access-Ray Petersen and Vernell Rowley-heritage. Wilson informed the council that Eric Luke has resigned from the council and a wildlife representative will need to be appointed. He asked permission to begin advertising for the opening on the council.
Wilson asked Priscilla Burton the newest council member to tell about herself and welcomed her to the council. Burton said she is married to Frank Burton who is a Price native. They lived in Salt Lake and recently moved to Cleveland. She has been working for DOGM since 1990. She has two girls ages 12 and 7 who are enjoying their new schools. Burton has worked in the coal program and the abandoned mines reclamation. She is now working from the Price field office and is looking forward to getting involved with the lands council.
Huntington spoke about HB-145 which is sponsored by Brad Johnson which creates a state advisory board for grazing. Commissioner Ira Hatch felt that the BLM and forest service already have something of this type in place to take care of grazing and in his personal opinion it is just a ploy to get funds.
Of the grazing fees paid 12.5 percent comes back to the allotments for improvements and projects. The commissioner of agriculture has the say on how these funds are utilized now. Everyone who runs on BLM is sent a letter to see if they have projects for their allotment and matching funds are available for these improvements.
Rex Sacco wrote the original bill which has been amended. It is believed he wrote the bill to get the permittees a seat at the table. Rowley said the farm bureau has spoke in support of the bill. The council decided to write a letter as not being in favor of the bill as written. They would send this letter with Commissioner Sitterud when he attends the legislature.
Huntington also reported the lawsuit Kane County filed lost and the actions of the Grand Canyon trust in buying up grazing allotments has been deemed legal. A Kane County commissioner is filing an appeal and it will be back in court.
Rowley reported on some historical journals he has been reviewing with information on the early railroad and coal camps in the area. One history has been on a coal camp around Electric Lake which refined the coal onsite and shipped it as coke; this was the Salt Lake Coal and Coke Company. Rowley said he has donated the information to the Emery County Archives for preservation.
The Spanish Trail Convention will be held in Green River in early June. Mike McCandless said there is an increased interest now with the National parks system because there is some funding available for the Spanish Trail.
Rowley believes the funds will be used to more fully mark the Spanish Trail. Petty mentioned the trail runs directly through the Consol Coal Company property. Rowley said the trail entered the valley through the Spanish Fork canyon and included crossings of the Green River. Pack trains traveled from Santa Fe to San Bernadino, Calif. These pack trains carried contraband, slaves and other illegal pursuits. Rowley mentioned that it hasn't changed much as the I-70 corridor follows the Spanish Trail somewhat and contraband is still carried along that stretch. This parallel brought a chuckle to council members.
Petty reported that someone had contacted Consol about the possibility of supplying coal for a coal gasification plant. He also reported that with the SUFCO proposed road they did get the livestock driving lanes. The Waterhollow route is the preferred alternative although it is the most expensive. It was chosen because it doesn't disturb the archaeological value of the area.
Sherrel Ward reported that a gas company has been contacting private land owners in Cleveland.
Derris Jones from the Division of Wildlife Resources reported that Waldo Wilcox claims he has been contacted on leasing his mineral rights in Range Creek.
Commissioner Gary Kofford reported the BLM is putting in an office in Vernal to work directly with gas leases which will employ 17 people. There is a real push for natural gas at this time. Petty reported that MSHA has received bad publicity lately for coal mines and safety. He feels this publicity is unwarranted as MSHA issues orders also, not just violations. Mark Reynolds from the CW Mining said that in a survey of the 50 most dangerous occupations that coal mining wasn't listed.
Burton reported that in oil shale development of the 20 applications evaluated by the BLM that eight have been accepted two of which are in Utah in Uintah County, 50 miles south of Vernal. NEPA evaluations will be conducted next.
The forest service has been doing a study on expanding categorical exclusions on some new drill sites with limited disturbance which could expedite the permitting process. This new exclusion has a rule that the project would have to have less than a mile of road, which excludes most projects.