The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on March 11 at 5 p.m. Those present were Commissioners Drew Sitterud, Ira Hatch and Gary Kofford, Chairman Dennis Worwood, Ray Petersen, Margaret McMullin, Craig Johansen, James Gilson, Joe Fielder, Dickson Huntington, Vernell Rowley, Tory Killian and Kirk Johansen.
Worwood opened the meeting by welcoming the new members to the council. He said that this was their first meeting at 5 p.m. and their fears that agency people might not attend appeared to be justified in that the BLM was represented but no one from the forest service was in attendance. The first item on the agenda was the approval of the previous meeting minutes. The subcommittee reports were next with McMullin from recreation reporting that the BLM had donated the materials for the construction of a gate for Dean King. The gate was constructed along the King Rim Trail and replaces the old one made of logs that was deteriorating.
The next report was by Craig Johansen on water. He said the situation is getting worse. The wild and scenic river inventory is now available on the BLM website. Johansen said they did not take any of the suggestions from the committee about suggested stretches to be eliminated from the inventory. One area of major concern was the Huntington Creek being listed by the forest service from the forest service boundary to Electric Lake and the Left Fork of the Huntington to Millers Flat reservoir. Johansen said it is something to watch out for and that these stretches will be analyzed in the resource management plan environmental impact study to determine if suitable and it will not be a separate process, but buried in the RMP.
Petersen said the alternatives for the RMP by the BLM will be developed in meetings the end of March and early April. He mentioned the comment period on the wild and scenic designations will be open for public comments until March 28.
Johansen said the snow totals are 65 percent of average with no water in the reservoirs and things are dryer this year than last.
The heritage subcommittee report was next. Worwood reported that they have received very few comments as of yet and that of those received some were positive or neutral with no negative responses.
Kathleen Truman reported that the I-70 interpretive panels are in production and will be in place in another month or two. The community kiosks are in the first draft stage.
Bruce Funk asked a question about the possible funds which would come into the county if it were designated a heritage area and how these funds would be handled as far as accountability and distribution.
Worwood said that those things weren't determined at this time. Commissioner Hatch said that they had been looking at the Emery County Foundation to oversee those funds.
Truman added that federal money comes with its own regulations to determine accountability. Worwood said they would look at a number of the heritage area bills that have passed and research how they distributed the funds and to what organizations. He mentioned there are a variety of mechanisms for this distribution.
Rowley wondered if these funds could be used for BLM public lands day. Worwood said that any appropriate project in the county could be worthy of funds. He mentioned the old church in Emery as an example. Funds do not just have to be used on federal lands. A lot of the heritage areas back East are on private land.
Worwood said they would review all comments received concerning the heritage area and proceed from there with discussion at the next public lands council meeting.
The access subcommittee report was next with Petersen reporting that they didn't appeal the BLM route designation but had submitted a letter with the concerns of the county outlined for the BLM to consider as the RMP process goes along. He stated that he knows there were some appeals but he didn't know how that effected things out on the ground. Petersen reported that they had met with the BLM out in the Upper Little Horse area and talked to them there about reopening that route.
Petersen said they are still submitting data to the state for the fight with the RS-2477 routes which he hopes will be addressed sometime this summer.
Huntington reported that he had attended the range seminar dealing with drought that was presented by the farm bureau. He reported that there were overflow crowds in attendance and the presenters did a really good job but he didn't feel anything new had come out of the meetings. Huntington said that John Healy from the forest service said that most of the allotments will go on 10 days to two weeks late with probable 10-15 percent additional cuts in AUMs but this was not set in stone. On the higher allotments the forest service will hold off until the grasses go into the flowering state but they won't hold off as long on the lower elevations.
Fielder reported on the land exchange saying that they are still waiting on an opinion from the investigators office as to changes in the land exchange bill.
The next item on the agenda was the discussion of ATV and motorcycle damage to private property. Kirk and Glen Jensen reported to the council.
Cameron reported to the council that they are having trouble with ATV use in the Humbug area. He was concerned that as more and more trails are closed farther out that the concentration of riders in the Humbug area is extreme.
He was instructed that these problems will be addressed in the RMP process being conducted by the BLM and to get his comments in concerning this area.
Wheeler commented that one of the main problems that exists is that people do not know where they can go. He said the ATV groups have been working with education and signs to let people know which trails are open.
Mark H. Williams pointed out the need for trail systems that are loops and are clearly marked.
Craig Johansen asked Joan Hubert from the BLM, exactly what would take place in the meetings the BLM has scheduled for the week of March 31-April 4. Hubert explained that they will be discussing the alternatives for the RMP. They will consider all problems as discuss solutions such as the problems the Jensens are having. The BLM needs to be made aware of such problems so they can be addressed in the RMP. Hubert explained that they will decide which approach is the best and most do able in each situation. Each alternative will take a different approach. When the final decisions are made the alternative may be a product where part of one alternative is selected and part of another; this is standard procedure for the development of a RMP.
Craig Johansen mentioned that after the alternatives are developed they will become available for public comments.
Truman reported that she had been asked to participate in a social analysis as part of the revision of the forest plan that the forest service is engaged in currently. Truman will explore the cultural and historical links of the communities with the forest in our area. Emery County is the model and is being used as a case study for the forest service. Another office does the economic study. She also said this fits well with the 100 year anniversary of the forest service being celebrated this year.
Bert Oman was next on the agenda representing the Emery County Historical Society. He said they are the second largest historical society in the state and have 125 members. The only one larger is the one in Salt Lake. The historical society is concerned about the heritage that is being lost in the county. He expressed concern over a number of cabins that have been burned in the county by the BLM or the forest service. He said that the members of the historical society are not young any more and would have a hard time walking to visit some of these sites that have been closed off like Swasey's Leap which know requires a two mile walk to get into see it. The historical society has spent a lot of time and effort in promoting tourism and now these areas are being closed and I think it's terrible. Oman remembered a few years back when the BLM closed the road on Mexican Mountain and Montell Seely put a letter to the editor in the paper which stated this was a right that has been taken away from us and we should protest. But, we didn't and now hundreds of miles have been closed and the historical society is concerned about these things.
Craig Johansen suggested to Oman that he contact the firm that is doing the historical evaluation of the Swell for the BLM, Booz, Allen and Hamilton and make sure that they know everything that you know and make them aware of these historical sites so they can include it in their evaluation which is being gathered as part of the RMP process.
Petersen reported that some SITLA lands are up for auction including ground east of Castle Dale and north of Emery and wanted to make everyone aware of that.
The next item for discussion was the appointments of council members to specific areas relating to the RMP. These members will be prepared to report to the BLM regarding the county's interests in that area. Commissioner Hatch also suggested that the council members coordinate with the BLM team leader for their particular area.
Petersen stated that he would get an agenda for the meeting and let each council member know when they would need to report and if they were unavailable at that time that he could report for them as he and the commissioners will be present for all the planned meetings.
The next item on the agenda was the appointment of the officers for the coming year. Dennis Worwood was nominated by Commissioner Hatch for the chairman. All nominations were ceased as it was recommended that Worwood be placed in this position by acclamation. The vice chairman was also nominated and placed in office by acclamation, Craig Johansen will fill the position as vice chairman for the upcoming year.
It was also reported by agency people that they are working on the timber sale by Electric Lake and the department of reclamation has a project going to reclaim DesBee Dove mine and the project is currently in its second phase with the work being done by Nielson Construction. The cattle trail will be left open for use by local ranchers.
The next public lands council meeting will be held on April 8 at 10 a.m.