Public lands disappointed at meeting turnout
The Emery County Public Lands Council has begun the process to create a public land use bill for Emery County. They have held a series of public meetings. A month ago, the lands council voted to begin the process for a lands use bill for Emery County similar to the Washington County Lands Use Bill which recently passed in Congress. Information gathered will also be used to rewrite the public lands portion of the Emery County General Plan. Various topics were identified for which information will be gathered in the public meeting process as well as from other sources. The meetings began with cultural and historical resources on July 15 and travel and transportation on July 16 along with wildlife on July 21. A meeting on utility corridors and rights of way, was held July 28. A meeting addressing water rights and water use was on July 28. Grazing and livestock were addressed on July 29. On July 30, the topic was mineral exploration and extraction. A second meeting is scheduled for the travel and transportation issue on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m.
An update on each of these individual meetings was given at the public lands council work meeting on Aug. 4. Mike McCandless is chairing the utility corridors and rights of way, he said their meeting was not well attended, but they did identify everything that needed to be regarding right of ways and utility corridors. One main item was access to existing and future telecommunications sites many, of which are on mountain tops in what could become wilderness areas. The main concern in the meetings is loss of access. McCandless said they don't want to lose access to any telecommunications sites. They need a site in Turtle Canyon and also along the Green River cut-off road. If the carbon sequestration plant goes through in that area, utilities will be needed to that site. They will also work to get areas they identified on the map of the utility corridor. Telecommunication sites need to be placed at intervals of 12 miles apart and the language for any bill would need to include this allowance. Some sites along SR-24, the Hanksville road, also need to be identified. Some of these are on SITLA or private ground. Rocky Mountain Power is looking at utility corridors and they have three alternative routes outlined, but a decision hasn't been made as to the route at this time. McCandless said these transmission lines will be three times larger than anything we have in the area at this time.
Vernell Rowley discussed the cultural and historical sites public hearing. He said they have identified 65 historical sites and mapped them. They currently need to map cultural and scenic sites. They are asking for public input to make sure all sites of these types are identified and located on maps. GPS readings of sites are helpful.
Mistie Christiansen spoke about the livestock and grazing public meeting. She was concerned at the lack of public at the meeting and what needs to be done to pull people in.
Sherrel Ward suggested now the initial meetings have been conducted that the topics and subcommittees be combined. Documents must be ready to present at the next round of meetings so the public has something concrete to respond to. Ward wondered where the council goes from here in regards to wilderness. Ward wondered what the council does in regards to SUWA. Ray Petersen, public lands director, said that SUWA will tell you that they have their proposal for wilderness which is the America's Red Rock Wilderness Act and he doesn't see them compromising on anything.
Petersen said Emery County needs to have its own wilderness proposal. Gary Petty said he had talked to permittees in the Washington County area and it is too soon to tell how grazing will be affected on wilderness lands there. He also mentioned the Salmon River Wilderness in Idaho where many permittees voluntarily relinquished their grazing permits.
Christiansen said one major concern in their public hearing was if the bill becomes something the county doesn't agree with then Sen. Bennett will pull the bill. Petersen said it is a common practice in Congress for so many attachments to bills they become unrecognizable. He said there are always no grazing advocates that try to make their voices heard, there was a no grazing alternative to the recent BLM RMP; but that alternative wasn't chosen.
Petersen said maintaining control of the bill is crucial.
It is a common misconception that cows cause problems and education needs to take place on the benefits of grazing.
Christiansen said maybe more people will turn out to the meetings, when the wilderness issue is discussed. The point was made that the language in the bill for grazing needs to state that the permittees can do repairs to their water structures and other needed repairs using mechanical maintenance. Petty said he would like to know more about the Wilderness Act and Petersen said he would provide him with a copy.
Wayne Ludington from the BLM, said a permittee might need a whole new permit to ensure that the proper language was included so mechanical maintenance can continue even if an allotment becomes part of a wilderness area.
Priscilla Burton reported on the mineral exploration and extraction meeting. They had 12 people in attendance and three were from state agencies and some were mineral permit holders. Those attending didn't provide much input, but said they would take the information back to their respective companies and issue comments in the future. They wished to remain confidential as far as any future plans for areas of exploration. The attendees also requested some form of newsletter to update them on the work of the subcommittee in regards to minerals. Some at this meeting expressed anger as to why wilderness is even being considered, but by the end of the meeting they were able to see why the county is beginning to engage in the process.
Mark Williams reported on the travel and transportation meeting saying there were more people there from out of our county than from the county. The people voiced their concerns that they don't want to lose anything we have now. They also expressed concerns about the trails around Green River and SR-24 as they aren't identified yet by the Price BLM. The people also wanted a broader definition of camping. Just so many feet off the road, isn't very good information.
Petty wondered where bicycles fit into wilderness. Petersen said no bicycles, unless Congress has special language to allow the use of a bicycle in a wilderness area. No mechanized travel in wilderness. Petersen said the spokesman for USA-ALL stated their position is no net loss of trails because it seems like every time you go through some process you lose something.
The meeting on wildlife was not well attended either. The DWR said they need to maintain aerial access for animal surveys and any transplanting of animals they undertake. They need to be able to land helicopters and would want language to allow this use to continue. The DWR also needs to be able to place guzzlers and do predator control.
Bruce Wilson, public lands chairman wondered how the Washington County Bill wildlife language compares with what Emery County needs. Guy Webster said some adjustments will need to be made, the part about being able to land a helicopter and other issues. Christiansen said the water language is pretty close to what Emery County needs. Ward said the council needs to make sure that nothing interferes with the salinity projects going forward in the county. The county needs to be protected against defining water quality and quantity in the water language should an area become wilderness.
People also voiced concern that they didn't want to do anything which would limit future industry in the county.