It seems everyone wants a piece of Emery County as their own. The Wilderness Society presented a map with areas outlined for wilderness twice as big as the lands council map, but smaller than what SUWA proposes each year.
In the Emery County Public Lands work meeting for February the Wilderness Society presented their map to the council. The map prepared outlines what the society would like to see included in an Emery County land use bill.
The Emery County Lands Council has been preparing a land use bill for more than a year and hopes that 2011 will be the year to send the information to the Washington delegation staff and have them format the information into bill language and work to get it passed this year in Congress.
Much information gathering and field trips have gone into the map prepared by the lands council. The wilderness society began attending public lands council meetings late in the process and asked if they could weigh in on the land use bill and map creation. The lands council was quick to respond to the wilderness society welcoming their input.
Brad Barber presented the map for the wilderness society. At first glance the land areas marked for National Conservation Areas and wilderness areas were much larger than the areas outlined in the public lands council map. Barber said their map is somewhere in between what the lands council prepared and the America's Red Rock Wilderness Act that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance introduces each year in Congress. When asked for acreage amounts on their map, Barber didn't have a number, stating that they weren't as concerned with acreage as they were with making sensible boundaries. Barber said the map was their first stab and they are hoping to go back and tweak some things. Barber said they are trying to capture and show a big vision with their map. They are in a hard position to be in the middle and represent their interests. "It's bigger than what you have, but it's smaller than what others have proposed, that puts us in the middle. It's not set in stone and we need more field trips," said Barber.
Barber said they have pushed out the boundaries of the wilderness areas to expand what the county has proposed. Sometimes these boundaries border roads and Barber said the intent was to have proper set-backs from the roads and what these set backs are is up for discussion. In some cases Barber said they have squared up boundaries that made sense to them. They have included the State Institutional Trustlands within their map.
The question was asked if the society had prepared any language to go along with their National Conservation Area proposals. Barber said they hadn't prepared any, but the language that exists within the Emery County bill and the Washington County bills are good starting places. He sees the NCA being managed to allow travel, allow grazing, but a NCA designation withdraws the land from any future mining activities. Barber sees the NCA areas as being very marketable and people might want to come and see these areas.
Barber said the wilderness society wants to be partners with the county. They are interested in the economic development of the county and the continued rights of the grazers in the area. They are willing to discuss their map with the county.
Ray Petersen, public lands director said, "It's a lot to digest. I encourage everyone to take the maps home and look at them. We will meet again in two weeks."
Council member Gary Petty said one concern he has is where the proposals go outside Emery County boundaries. How do the other counties feel and what are their plans for these areas. He said he has talked to Wayne County and they have interest in making that area a National Recreation Area. Barber said that National Recreation Areas offer some protection for the land, but they have a different purpose.
Randy Johnson said he works with Wayne County too, and they are not ready yet for dialogue, they are waiting to see what the Emery County proposal looks like.
Mistie Christiansen, council member said she is glad the wilderness society sees the map as a work in progress, as she sees many things that need discussion.
Guy Webster, council member, said he sees the need for real concrete definitions for the National Conservation Areas the wilderness society has proposed. He also sees discussion needs to be held on the roads.
John Anderson from the audience said he disagreed with turning the Hidden Splendor area into wilderness.
Michael McCandless, Emery County Economic Development director said he sees a real problem with the boundary near SR-6. There is an important utility corridor along highway 6 and also the boundary encroaches into the Mancos Shale Industrial Park which Emery County is developing and has a number of businesses considering locating there. There are also a number of rights of way in that area that Emery County has purchased from SITLA. Another conflict is the Mounds area which is a significant oil field which produced 85,000 barrels a year and is a developable resource. McCandless sees a big conflict in having wilderness surrounding the Goblin Valley State Park. There is much dispersed camping in the area and he sees enforcement as being a nightmare. He has other concerns as well, which will be brought up in the next meeting.
Webster mentioned a large increase in the area surrounding where the San Rafael comes joins the Price River. Webster said he sees much conflict including that area in the boundary of an NCA or wilderness as the area contains much private land.
John Andrews from SITLA said on one of the blocks of SITLA land there is a carbon seqestration plant expressing interest in the area and also other potential oil shale development sites.
The public lands council will meet again on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. to discuss the wilderness society's proposed map.