The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their November meeting to hear updates from the county commission and various agencies. Ed Geary, council chairman opened the meeting with remarks on the elections taking place that day. The council went over the meeting schedule for 2013 moving the first meeting of the year to Jan. 3, 2013 which will be a Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday for that month only.
In the December meeting the water subcommittee report will be presented to inform everyone of the results and findings from this water study. Commissioner James Nelson reported the county has withdrawn the report for the Emery County Public Lands bill. The bill has met with some issues with neighboring counties and these issues must be resolved before the report is resubmitted to the state public land office. The report was prepared in response to HB136 which requires state approval of the bill which Emery County wants to introduce in Congress as soon as possible. Kathleen Clarke from the state public land office called a meeting with the commissioners and Ray Petersen, public lands director to ask the county to withdraw the report until the issues with the other counties were worked out. Commissioner Nelson expressed his appreciation to the council for their hard work on the lands bill.
Lands council member Mistie Christiansen asked if the commissioners have met with the other counties. The answer was Kathleen Clarke will set up these meetings between the counties involved.
Petersen said when Clarke came and met with the commissioners some issues from these other counties were brought up and some were new issues and others were not. The Emery County land use bill process has been an open process with invitations out to everyone for comment. All stakeholders were welcome to comment and now Petersen reported at four years into this process these people have decided they are stakeholders. With the current political climate, it won't hurt to step back and work through these issues. Clarke will facilitate these meetings. Petersen described the delay as a bump in the road, but the intent is to keep moving on the bill.
Geary said one of the concerns that Uintah County had was with the issue of air quality within a WSA or wilderness area. The issue was called regional haze. Petersen commented that air quality regulations are already in place for wilderness study areas.
Council member Gary Petty asked if the bill would have to be re-written. Commissioner Nelson said no the bill may have to be stretched a little, but not re-written.
Petersen said he has visited Wayne County to tell them of the lands bill. He said it's not the intent of Emery County to dictate the resource use in other counties and other counties should not dictate the use of Emery County's resources. The commission is the policy maker for Emery County.
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks said it is not the intent of the county commission to let anyone change our bill. The county will take care of the issues and concerns recently raised and the bill will move forward.
Sherrel Ward said if the bill goes to the state level with objections from other counties it will be hard to get it approved.
Geary said there are concerns and all involved must exercise patience.
Trish Clabaugh from the BLM introduced two of her employees, Matt Blocker who oversees recreation and Dana Truman in range management. Truman said this has been a busy summer with the fires. Reseeding is taking place on the Lighthouse fire with some drill seeding. Fall grazing is being authorized on a case by case basis. Some fall ranges lack water and forage. Some won't be able to be used this fall season. The need for snow is very crucial this winter for these ranges to promote grass growth in the spring. It is expected the grazing for spring will be looked at on an allotment by allotment basis as well. She said the Skyline Cooperative Weed management group has done some good work on the rangeland this year. Work is being done on some backcountry airstrips to improve them. Truman said she started with the BLM in 2008 and is married to a Huntington man, Rusty Truman who is a veterinarian in the area.
Blocker said he started with the BLM in 2005 in Montana and came down here in May, he works with the rivers, wilderness study areas and non-motorized use.
Geary asked if the Lighthouse fire had exposed any arch sites in Range Creek. Clabaugh answered that Duncan Metcalf who is the lead man at Range Creek from the University of Utah said there have been fires in that canyon for hundreds of years and no damage was done. Rehab work would not include drill seeding in arch areas.
Clabaugh said emergency stabilization projects were funded for three of the fires this year.
Petersen thanked Truman for her work in getting the right of ways for the Little Wild Horse Canyon road project.
Marc Stilson from the Utah Division of Water Rights said there have been no new actions on the lawsuit filed against the water right for the proposed Blue Castle Nuclear Power Plant project near Green River.
Ward reported some chaining will take place on the North Huntington allotment. There will be an information meeting about this project on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the old city hall in Huntington.
Darrin Olsen, from the forest service said work is still being done on the Seeley fire burn area because the weather is holding. Christmas tree sales will begin on Nov. 19. They will be sold out of the Ferron office and at Castle Valley Co-op in Huntington and Main Street Market in Ferron. There will be no Christmas tree cutting in Straight Canyon and Huntington Canyon. Wood permits expire the end of November. There is no wood gathering in Huntington Canyon, but special permits may be issued there to help with the clean-up. The forest service will be hiring a new law enforcement officer due to the retirement of Don Riddle.
The forest service is done for now with the seeding to help with erosion. They are not working with the log jams, that is a state issue. They seeded 8,000 acres with winter wheat to establish some growth.
Gary Petty, lands council member asked what the long range plan for grazing is. Olsen said two cattle and three sheep allotments were majorly affected by the fire. They are taking the matter very seriously and trying to deal with the erosion. They worked to keep the cattle out of the black areas. Olsen said there is no money to replace border fencing.
The Farm Service Agency does have match money to help with replacing fences on private lands that were destroyed by the fire. Some of this financing has been approved at the state and federal level.
Dan Richards reported on the state parks. He said visitation is up this year and the adding of power to the state parks has helped. Ten sites have been added at Millsite and will be ready for use next season. There is a little more operating money now and there are plans to bring back enhancement projects. Richards said he would like to see more development on the beach front. They want to come up with more ideas for day use to get people out to the state parks for swimming and picnics along the beach. The campground at Millsite is closed for the season, but you can still camp in the parking lot and there is still a bathroom open. The Huntington State Park is open year round and the fishing is good reported Richards. There are reduced rates for long term camping. Plans are underway for an ice fishing tournament at Scofield. A fishing tournament which involves three reservoirs might be worked out and you can carry your fish weight totals over. They are also working on a website for the park. Grooming on the snowmobile trails will begin at the end of December. Richards announced he is retiring the end of December and he thanked everyone for the partnerships and the friendships he has made in the area. He will return to South Dakota where he is from and manage a park there.
Ward announced the water subcommittee is looking for new projects to tackle now that the water study is complete.
The council thanked Ward and his committee for the enormous amount of work that went into the water study.
Blake Stewart was introduced and he works under the department of agriculture and they have cost share programs for grazing improvement projects. They can help with pasture fences at a 50 percent match on private ground. They are also looking at creative grazing techniques that increase the numbers and forage for cattle.