Letter to the Editor: Responds to Emery County Public Lands Council
In the letter below Alan Peterson the author has taken the statement from the Emery County Public Lands council from the Nov. 29 issue of the Emery County Progress and has addressed his take on the statement. Refer to the statement.
The Emery County Public Lands Council states that legal and illegal activity on public and private land is escalating impacts to resources and other users...So, more people using/visiting the land = more impacts. Seems logical. Thus the need for management.
Rain and snow just in time for the annual hunting seasons create saturated roads and camping areas. Hunters go to the places they've always gone and in the process widen the roads in order to avoid mud holes and ruts.
Results = More people using/hunting on muddy roads = more impacts. Seems logical. Thus the need for management...perhaps the US Forest Service or Emery County should have closed the main road onto the forest until the roads were dry? Then again, does anyone expect the hunting seasons to have dry roads?
We're talking about county, US Forest Service and BLM system roads here. You know, the ones that Emery officials encourage tourists to travel while they visit the "Spectacular San Rafael" and who hopefully spend some dollars while in Emery County.
Results = More tourists coming to visit Emery County, driving low clearance-highway vehicles, requiring the roads be in better condition = financial impacts to Emery County and an overwhelming workload in order to provide what the tourist needs.
Results = "Promote it and they will come to see it". So, Emery County do you want the Subaru and Winnebago crowd or not?
Again, Emery County promotes it's "magnificent attractions" to people throughout the world and now has to deal with the fact that some of those people are coming to see what all the fuss is about. The US Forest Service, Highway Department, Emery County, etc. have made decisions to improve the safety and travel upon it's roadways and now there are more vehicles able to travel "quickly and easily" upon those improved roads. The Division of Wildlife Resources sets the hunting seasons and yes, many more people are enjoying the use of off-highway vehicles in Utah during 2006 than were doing so just a few years ago.
Results = More people enjoying their public lands through sight-seeing, exploring, hunting or general OHV use. Emery County must make a decision, do you want tourists (no matter what their reason for coming) or not? People create impacts. It doesn't matter if they got here in a Subaru, Winnebago or OHV. It's the human that creates the impact.
Every citizen of this county, state and nation requires natural resources to sustain the quality of life that we are blessed with. Gas and oil exploration and development is critical to that high and expected quality of life. Each land management agency has authority to regulate the activitiy upon their administered land. "Non-County Roads" certainly fall under the authority of some state or federal agency, thus impacts should be easily addressed by those agencies..
"Historically"? Well, I guess it depends on how far back into history we want to go doesn't it? Historically, the Indians had everything to themselves. Obviously things have changed and will continue to change. SITLA property doesn't belong to "the cattleman who is permitted to graze livestock" there. Frustrations over changes is very difficult to mitigate. Change is inevitable and especially true with public lands.
The problem with people not closing gates, or people being ignorant, or people being intolerant, or people being rude, or people being belligerent are all "people" problems. To assign guilt based on the type, size or color of the vehicle they drive is unfair. Education and enforcement is the solution. Seems that industrial activity that is permitted and regulated would be the easiest to monitor and mediate. There is a formal chain of command with the industry users and problems with certain employees could be quickly and easily addressed.
Just because an activity or user is labeled as "new", shouldn't disqualify the activity or user from access to public lands. Again, "historic user" is a status that shouldn't promote one person's activities over others.
In the statement by the public lands council, an incident was related about an impatient motorist forcing two calves from the road, injuring them and causing their death. Cattle and vehicles and impatient motorist seem to indicate that this conflict involved a full-sized vehicle? If so, why didn't you make that clear to the readers? Instead, you have chosen to insinuate that this "conflict" is something new. Perhaps because of the many "new users, enjoying "new"activities on public roads and land.
"Illegal motorized activity, whether perpetrated by hunters, fishermen, grazers, OHV enthusiasts riding motorcycles, four-wheelers, mud-boggers, cattle truck or the family car, is probably the most challenging element to get a handle on".
Now we're down to the meat of the issue.
So, the question is how do we enforce laws and impose fines that will deter the person from breaking the law?
EDUCATION: There are still far too many users (of all types) that don't know that they can no longer do the things that they "historically" were able to do. Cattlemen seem to think that as long as they are "working" then they are exempt from the regulations. Hunters seem to think that as long as they are "retrieving" animals that they are exempt from the regulations. Campers seem to think that as long as they are just going to a camp spot, that they are exempt from the regulations. OHV enthusiasts seems to think that (since there are already tracks on the ground and obviously others are driving on a particular trail/road), it must be a legal trail/road.
The general public seems to think that what they do is justified, but what the "other guy" does is wrong and the "other guy" must be stopped because the "other guy" is creating damage.
ENFORCEMENT: There are too few officers available to enforce the travel restrictions, hunting restrictions, grazing restrictions, camping restrictions, etc. on their own. So, it is up to users (of all types) to police themselves.
In conclusion, I believe that the majority of users of public lands truly do care about the land and want to do the right thing. Carbon County (CCOHVA) and Emery County (SEUOHV) each have successful OHV clubs comprised of dedicated volunteers who donate thousands of hours and dollars towards education and enhancement of OHV opportunities on public lands. There is a newly formed Back Country Horseman chapter in the Carbon/Emery area which is doing the same for saddle-stock activities.
The King-Krawlers is an active, and informed club for rock-crawling enthusiasts in the Carbon/Emery area. Sportsman For Wildlife is a group of dedicated sportsmen that has provided much help to the DWR in addressing issues affecting hunting and fishing throughout Utah.
The families and Individuals who make up these groups are concerned and involved in the issues that concern land managers and local government officials. These individuals and their organizations have been and continue to be part of the solution and encourage all other users to do the same.
It's been said that if you "aren't part of the solution, you might be part of the problem".
Therefore, I encourage everyone to pick a group, a club or organization that represents your interests, and...Join - Participate - Donate.