Lands council hears info on endangered species
The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regular meeting on July 6. Public lands director Ray Petersen reported the Crandall Canyon land trade is nearing completion. Emery County participated in the project to locate the memorial on the forest service land. The county obtained a special use permit from the forest service. The land trade will deed the forest service 7.5 acres down by the bridge and river area in exchange for the land the memorial is on which will become private property. The Washington delegation will work on the land trade and the needed legislation will be completed.
The council wondered about the iron content of the water being discharged into the stream in Crandall Canyon. The mine has been in compliance since May when the iron in the discharge met the standards outlined by water quality. The mine has been doing things to stay in compliance. As time goes by the mining company will have to be responsible for a permanent solution when they go through the reclamation process at the mine.
Currently the mining company is using chemicals, coagulants and flocculent to get the minerals to drop into the pond. The iron content in the stream has varied over time, but is currently meeting standards. The settling pond is cleaned out every couple of months. The mineral coming out of the pond isn't considered marketable.
The forest service representatives, said the Reeder Road is in internal review. When this is complete the county can go ahead with the paving. Hopefully by the end of next week, the review will be complete. The West Scofield prescribed burn has been successfully completed. The project has gone on for a five-six year period where 13 total units were burned covering 600 acres. Currently crews are monitoring any hot spots and will eliminate them.
The environmental analysis on the dispersed camping sites around the Miller's Flat area is being worked on and 46 dispersed camping sites have been identified in the area. The draft EA will be out for review in the next two weeks. Only five or six sites were recommended for closure. Sites will be hardened and steps taken to avoid further expansion in the area.
On the Emery allotment and pipeline project the paperwork is complete and a letter has been sent to the US Fish and Wildlife for their approval. Their approval is needed to ensure the project won't have any adverse affects on the water which reaches the Colorado river. It is expected the response from US Fish and Wildlife won't come for 120 days.
A sage grouse project above Emery in the Wildcat Knolls area has been completed to improve the habitat in the area. The area has become a monoculture of grass and the area has been disced and harrowed and replanted with a variety of habitat. Two-three hundred acres have been treated so far.
Bill Bates from the Division of Wildlife Resources reported the DWR has been allotted money for 1,000 acres for next year.
Mistie Christiansen, lands council member said the cattle have been moved from the area until the land can produce 500 pounds of forage per acre.
The areas are being monitored for new growth and the forest service will go out in a couple of weeks. The rain helped with the growth. The forest service said they are resting pastures, not eliminating grazing. The cows this year at Emery went out five-six days later due to a cold-wet spring.
Darren Olsen said they are taking a proactive approach to sage grouse to help prevent them being listed as an endangered species. The production standard needs to meet the criteria of 500 pounds and the variety of native species growth needs to be present.
Bates reported the sage grouse in the Wildcat Knolls were placed there in the 1980s and they have done well.
Sherrel Ward asked if the process is drawn out over a few years then it will prolong non-use of pastures. Lance Sudweeks said the project will be spread out over a few years.
Olsen said the forest service is having trouble with forest roads sliding. The 12-mile road has slid again. A portion 150 feet has slid. The area is unsafe. The forest service will have a crew up there working on the road and hopefully it will be open by the end of July and in the meantime people won't be able to travel across those areas. The possibility of moving the road to avoid future slides is being looked at.
Mark H. Williams, public lands member said the Reeder ATV trail has been closed longer into the summer season than usual. Olsen said the late snows and fallen timbers across the trail added to its late opening. As many as 67 blown down trees were reported across the trail.
Olsen will look at unauthorized trails in the Potters Pond area. No fire restrictions are in place on the forest at this time.
Val Payne, is an independent contractor working for the county on public lands issues. Payne said he would be presenting information to the lands council to help them in making recommendations to the county commission on various issues. He will work to educate the council. The matter before the council at this time was the DWRs idea of reintroducing the Colorado cutthroat trout into the Ferron drainage. The project was introduced a couple of months back and the lands council offered to write a letter of support for the project. Since that time water users and cattleman associations have voiced their opposition to the project and their need for more information on the possible affects. Paul Birdsey from the DWR met with the concerned groups in Ferron and he feels like they left the meeting in support of the idea.
Payne said he supports the concept of being proactive to preclude species from being listed as threatened or endangered. The ramifications of such a listing can be far reaching. State agencies have made valuable efforts in trying to manage species to avoid listing. Recovery efforts have been made for years for the sage grouse. The latest finding published by the US Fish and Wildlife in March of this year was the listing of sage grouse was warranted, but would not take place at this time because other species are in more danger.
Bates said a lot of work has gone into sage grouse habitat to prevent them from being listed. It's important that judges and everyone else know Utah has been very proactive in helping the sage grouse and would like to work with the Colorado cutthroat in much the same way to protect them and prevent their listing. The Western Watershed group has challenged the US Fish and Wildlife ruling on the sage grouse.
"Prior projects give credence to what's been done when you are asking a judge to look at Utah separately. Even though it many look like the information )projects) hasn't precluded listing yet. If you don't do projects you have no rebuttal," said Payne.
Bates said there aren't any guarantees on what species will and will not be listed. If a species is listed, then all control leaves local hands and will be managed by the federal agency US Fish and Wildlife. On every issue dealing with that species, the USF&W will have to issue a recommendation. All authority will be taken from the state and will go to the federal agency.
Birdsey is the aquatics manager for the DWR, he said Utah has been working to prevent listing of the Colorado cutthroat trout and Colorado has been working too. Local projects can proceed more rapidly than if you have to deal with the federal agency. Birdsey said some estimates of the occupancy of the Colorado cutthroat is 10-30 percent of its historic range. These estimates were based on all waters in the native range, including the San Rafael river where they were never native. Birdsey believes a more accurate representation of the cutthroat's native habitat would be the streams above 6,500 feet in elevation.
The DWR has been involved in an eight year project with Duck Fork reservoir where they are raising brood stock of Colorado cutthroat to gather their eggs and grow the fish in the hatchery and then the fish will be released in areas where the Colorado cutthroat is going to be reintroduced. Sufficient eggs and population is resulting from the efforts at Duck Fork.
Birdsey said the reintroduction project for the Ferron drainage isn't a formal proposal. The DWR wants local involvement and support as they consider this project. Birdsey said that's the reason he met with the water users and cattleman to address their concerns. What are the ramifications if the project is done, or if it isn't.
Petersen said when a species is listed, the management gets further away from the locals. Olsen said the forest service would also be directed by the USF&W and their decisions could limit timber harvest and grazing.
Payne said the sage grouse is estimated to cover 56 percent of their native range and they are still being considered for listing.
Ward said the public lands council was chastised by the irrigation and cattle companies because the lands council gave their approval of the project before they had consulted with them to see how they felt about the project. Ward recommended the cattlemen and irrigation companies be invited to come to a meeting where the proposal is discussed before the lands council gives their support of the project.
Birdsey said a formal proposal isn't in place and hasn't been written, but his idea is to do some work to the outlet structure at the Ferron dam. The reservoir would be treated and then restocked with Colorado cutthroat. If the county approves the project then the NEPA process could begin. There would be two treatments one in Fall 2011 and one in June 2012. The reservoir would be restocked in July 2012. Some time after that work would be done down stream.
Commissioner Gary Kofford pointed out the project is in Sanpete County and the DWR should seek their approval, too. The project will affect everyone in the drainage including the water users, sportsmen and cattlemen. Kofford advised getting all these groups inKofford commented he couldn't catch a fish in Duck Fork. Birdsey said there should be 500-600 fish in there left from the 800 planted. It was stocked with 10,000 fingerlings which should be catchable by next year and next year hopefully the fish they are able to stock will be larger. In the future the DWR hopes for a two fish limit at Duck Fork.
Birdsey said there is a lot of work involved in the project and they won't proceed without the county's approval.
Payne brought up another matter involving the Office of Service Mining notice they are readdressing stream protection rules as related to surface mining activities. "Does it apply to underground mining and could it complicate the permitting process of new mines," asked Payne.
The updating would be nationwide and Payne expressed his concern that mining is so different in the west than it is in the east. The closest meeting where comment can be made will be in Gillette, Wyo.
Gary Petty, lands council member said a problem they have in Emery is the drying up of a stream due to mining. They had no response from DOGM when they talked to them about it. They were sent to Denver and the Office of Surface Mining. They didn't offer any solutions and sent them back to DOGM where there was no response. The contention is it's ancient water and the mining company will not take responsibility. The mining company hauled water for the cattle, but now they are refusing to haul water. There isn't anyone to force the mining company to take responsibility for the lost water. The cattlemen and water users are suffering. Another issue is the discharge of the water into Quitchupah instead of the Muddy. If the OSM works it out and makes laws to define who is responsible in a situation like Emery's then that would be good. Petty mentioned the area the mine is moving into will have an even greater effect on the Muddy. Christiansen said they have a field trip planned with the forest service and SUFCO, because this is such a critical issue for Emery.
Under public comments, John Anderson read a statement against wilderness and said if oil companies were allowed to drill onshore then accidents like the gulf wouldn't happen.
Ward asked the forest service when the lodge at Ferron Reservoir would be removed. Olson said it was tested and has asbestos so the removal can't take place like they thought. They have some money set aside for the project and will have the asbestos removed so the lodge can be removed.
Petty said he gave depositions to the attorney generals office on the roads that were closed on the Swell and it will be another year before the case is heard in federal court. Petersen said there are about 20 witnesses who have given information concerning those roads.
Ward reported the water is 82 percent of normal in some areas and 78 percent in others. Joe's Valley is full as is Millsite and Huntington is 75-85 percent full.
The next field trip for public lands will be on July 15 and the next meeting will be on Aug. 3.