Emery County Public Lands Council met to discuss land issues pertinent to the county. Chairman Ed Geary said the council is lucky to have Ray Petersen as the public lands director for the county. He is always sending out information to council members and keeping them up to date on any new developments concerning public lands.
Jon Gilbert and Rod Player were appointed as representatives on the trails committee from the lands council. Petersen said he had attended a RS-2477 road meeting in Provo for strategy and planning. The AGs office has no plans to litigate on these RS-2477 roads in the next three years. Petersen said he is very disappointed in the process and they are losing witnesses for these roads at a rapid rate.
The commissioners and Ray Petersen met with Rep. Rob Bishop during the governor's energy summit recently. He is very optimistic about the Emery County Public Lands Use bill. He thinks meeting with neighboring counties and having a more regional approach might make the bill more attractive in Congress. The Emery County delegation said they have no problem with that approach as long as the bill retains its content. Currently the staffs of Rep. Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz are reviewing the bill and installing the appropriate language to make it into bill form prior to its introduction in Congress which hopefully is in the six months-year and a half time frame. Petersen and his assistant Val Payne are in communication with the Congressional staffs on the language for the bill. They are incorporating language from prior land use bills that have passed into the bill. The bill will be introduced in first the house and then the senate. Rep. Bishop is on the natural resources committee. As issues come up the county will consider the language to make sure it reflects what the county wants to maintain. As the bill is formed into Congressional language the integrity and intent of the bill must remain or the county would pull the bill.
Josh Winkler from the Bureau of Land Management spoke to the council concerning the route designations east of I-70. These routes were not addressed in the Price Field Office RMP. All of these routes were open and the RMP closed the area to existing roads and trails only. But, these existing roads and trails were not inventoried, the RMP stated this inventory must be done within a five year period. This period is ending and work has been done to map these existing roads and trails. The company Advanced Resource Solutions has been doing the work for the BLM. Winkler said help is needed to make sure none of the roads and trails are missed and not included in the inventory. If there is a cow trail to a pond, a hiking trail, mountain bike trail, horse trail, ATV trail or any other trail in the area that you know and use, please inform the BLM or this trail might be lost and not included in the inventory. He believes the company has done a good job inventorying the area, but he guesses there are some existing roads and trails that have been missed. He said they are looking at every linear feature in the area, or trying to; these linear features include bike trails, horse trails, jeep trails, motorcycle, etc. If these features are there and established they will be noted on the travel plan map. During this evaluation period, a purpose or need for each trail and road must be established. The public needs to become involved to tell the BLM why they need this road and why it should remain open. Does it lead to a cow pond? Does it lead to a camping spot? Is it a hiking or biking trail? etc.
Comments from the public will help. The formal comment period is not open at this time. These comments are being taken ahead of the formal comment period so that work can be addressed and completed now on the maps to show as many of the roads and trails as possible. The formal comment period only lasts 30 days so the BLM wants as many comments ahead of time as possible.
Brian Torgerson from SITLA said they have met with the BLM to give them the roads and trails on the SITLA property.
Petersen said all the inventoried routes that Emery County has in that area have been submitted to the BLM for their use in inventorying that area. The company is being paid $100 a mile to go into the desert and find everything they can. Meetings will be held the end of March before the scoping period begins, one will be in Castle Dale and one in Green River. After the meetings the formal scoping period will begin. The BLM will look for ways to make sure the grazers and other interested parties have notification of these scoping meetings.
The Division of Wildlife Resources has a new lieutenant in the area for enforcement Jay Shirley has transferred here from the Monticello office.
Wild turkeys were transplanted to Joe's Valley from South Dakota, 30 birds in all. The DWR has several habitat projects upcoming this year to improve the habitat for deer and elk. Elk counts are going on now. The coyote population seems to be decreasing due to the bounty program. The fox population is increasing. The preliminary steps for the listing of the Gunnison sage grouse on the endangered species list are taking place now. There will be a series of sage grouse open houses.
Torgerson from SITLA thanked Ray Petersen and Commissioner Jeff Horrocks for their help in approaching the CIB for funding for right-of-ways on SITLA land. These additional funds will help speed up the process of perfecting right-of-ways in Emery, Grand and Uintah counties. SITLA is also involved in a land exchange with the DWR for additional property around Desert Lake and the Emery farm. SITLA will trade these properties for DWR land elsewhere. SITLA is still working on the land exchange language for the Emery County Public Lands use bill concerning grazing that will work for everyone. The land exchanges will go before the SITLA board on March 28 for their input.
The question was asked if any of these land exchanges would affect public access in any way. The DWR representative said the DWR lands are managed for public access for hunting and fishing.
Darren Olsen from the forest service said they are meeting to coordinate Seely fire clean-up efforts and funding opportunities. He said there will be a fee increase for use of the Seely Guard station from $35 per night to $50. Fees will be implemented at three or four campsites surrounding Miller's Flat to cover the expenses of bathrooms in the area. This increase will need to be approved by the RAC so the fee may not be implemented until fall. During the winter months the forest services is working on planning and analysis for projects. They hope to have a decision on the Shalom timber project soon. There is also a big project in Ephraim Canyon. The forest service is looking at four sheep and cattle allotments and going through the NEPA process. They are also involved in planning rangeland improvement projects. The Flat Canyon coal lease is almost ready to lease. The forest service is starting their summer hiring process. The old cabin on the Muddy will be torn down if the lease isn't renewed by the family. The forest service has not heard from the family. The town of Emery and local cattlemen do not want to see the cabin torn down. Olsen said there are some things that can be done and to contact him to discuss it.
Members of Rep. Chaffetz office attended the meeting. Wade Garrett has been with Rep. Chaffetz for four years. He instructed the lands council to contact him with questions regarding the Emery County public lands use bill. Rep. Chaffetz office is trying to familiarize themselves with Emery County and the issues here. Rep. Chaffetz is introducing HR-250 a bill to look for ways to exempt Utah from the Antiquities Act. He is also pushing for reimbursement for counties that conduct search and rescues on federal lands.
Sherrel Ward from the lands council wondered if Rep. Chaffetz office would be able to help with any funding for the fire rehabilitation work.
Jonathan Hunt from Utah State Parks said the Green River Golf Course is open again. The snowmobile grooming on all trails is taking place throughout the winter. Half of the sites at Millsite State Park now have power. Reservations for the park for weekends in the summer are almost filled up. An ATV trail where you can ride from the park to the mountains should be open this summer.
Basinwide snow total is at 87 percent. "We could use some more storms," said Ward. The county will be presenting before the state legislature to get funding for the construction of catch basins before the spring runoff.
There are two log jams one in the Left Fork and one on XTO property above Huntington.