The way public land is managed in Emery County could become even more complicated over the coming months with the implementation of Sec. of Interior Salazar's order to re-inventory public lands for wilderness characteristics.
At the January Emery County Public Lands meeting there was speculation as to what the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar's order on protecting wilderness characteristics on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management would mean to Emery County. Acting chairman of the lands council Gary Petty said what Salazar is proposing has already been done in the not so distant past. Public Lands Director Ray Petersen said, "We've been there and done that. What Salazar is proposing is exactly what the Price Field office of the BLM did in their resource management plan alternative E. The BLM cannot designate wilderness. I think this is just a ploy to keep wilderness out in the news.
Randy Johnson, who is a consultant for the Emery County land use bill said, "This administration has said they would support a county by county process (land use). It's disappointing that he (Salazar) would do this."
Ron Dean, representative for Sen. Hatch said they held a conference call with congressional representatives and staffers and there wasn't much information available, no one knew what this new order means or how it will be developed.
Petty suggested the lands council write the BLM a letter to remind them of the process that Emery County is currently engaged in developing their own land use bill. The letter would go to the state BLM office as well as the Price Field Office, the Price office is the process of getting a new manager.
Val Payne, land use consultant for the county agreed sending a letter to the BLM would be good. In talking to the local BLM people, Payne indicated that none of them know what's going on either with the new order from Salazar. Commissioner Jeff Horrocks said the county commissioners will meet with the new Price Field Office manager as soon as possible to let the new person know of the public lands issues here in Emery County.
Lands council member Sherrel Ward said, "I see some real dangers here. This opens the door for them to come in and say that's wilderness. I think we need to challenge it with a lawsuit."
Johnson reported that the Utah Association of Counties is holding an emergency meeting to see how they should respond. They will look at where Salazar is going and if enough people are ready then it will be challenged.
Idaho Governor Butch Otter on Jan. 13 called on Secretary Salazar to immediately withdraw his order 3310. "It reflects the same type of top-down one size fits all management approach to which Idaho was subjected during the waning hours of the Clinton Administration without any state or public input, the Interior Department has circumvented the sovereignty of states."
The Washington Delegation for Utah including Sen. Hatch, Sen. Lee and Reps. Chaffetz, Matheson and Bishop have all expressed their dismay and disapproval of Order 3310.
The order states, in part, that the "Bureau of Land Management shall manage a current inventory of land under its jurisdiction and identify within that inventory lands with wilderness characteristics" and will "share this information with the public, and integrate this information into its land management decisions."
The order further states that the lands which BLM determines will protect for their wilderness characteristics will be designated as "Wild Lands."
The BLM is required to submit a report to the Secretary of the Interior within six months of the date of this Order that describes the BLM's plan for considering wilderness characteristics in existing land use plans consistent with this Order.
The order 3310 affirms that the protection of the wilderness characteristics of public lands is a high priority for the Bureau of Land Management, and is an integral component of its multiple use mission. The order provides direction to the BLM regarding its obligation to maintain wilderness resource inventories on a regular and continuing basis for public lands under its jurisdiction. It further directs the BLM to protect wilderness characteristics through land use planning and project-level decisions.
The order states, "Many of America's most treasured landscapes include public lands with wilderness characteristics that provide visitors with rare opportunities for solitude and personal reflection. In addition, many of these lands have culturally significant and sacred sites important to tribes. Many people and communities value these lands for hunting and fishing, observing wildlife, hiking, and other non-motorized and non-mechanized recreational uses. Lands with wilderness characteristics are also important for their scientific, cultural, and historic objects, which further our understanding of human and natural history."