The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 12 at the Emery County Courthouse. Chairman Dennis Worwood conducted the meeting. Those members present included: Joe Fielder, Thomas Roush, Craig Johansen, Dickson Huntington, Wes Curtis and Val Payne. Commissioners Randy Johnson, Ira Hatch and Drew Sitterud were in attendance as well as Brad Johnson, legislator representing part of Emery County.
The first item on the agenda was the approval of the minutes. The subcommittee reports were next on the agenda. Johansen said, "We met with the Natural Resource Committee in an attempt to change the language of Senate Bill 37, but we were not successful in doing that. The bill has moved out of committee."
Johansen and Hatch hoped to change the language to prevent water from being bought up by out of state interests and moving the control of the water outside of the jurisdiction of the irrigation companies. It was learned that this language change would be in conflict with export laws and also interstate commerce regulations. According to Johansen it looks like the bill is going to be passed. He also pointed out that the Farm Bureau supports the bill because it will settle some disputes. He also said that most of the water is closed basin, but here we deal with the Colorado River which leaves the state, but upstate they don't face that challenge.
Johansen said, "It hasn't snowed since the last of November and the watershed is 63-65 percent of normal."
The next subcommittee report was for coal bed methane. Johansen wondered how much gas is leaving the county and if someone could take an accounting of the situation and find out the dollar value of gas leaving the county.
Tom Rasmussen from the Bureau of Land Management said reports on wells on federal land were available on the Department of the Interior website before it went down. He said there are 11 federal wells and 29 on state or private lands, but as to what the exact figures were he couldn't tell. It was determined that the matter will be looked into.
The recreation report was given by Margaret Swasey who said that the idea of holding Public Lands Day on Temple Mountain has been put off for a year or two and that tentatively they would hold it at the head of Sinbad. Work would include installing a roof on the cabin, parking lot work, bathroom facilities and protecting Indian writings. She also mentioned the Quarry is open during the Olympics. She said Kim Player is in charge of National Trails Day. The proposed site for this day was in question because it is out of the county and would be checked into to see if that created a conflict.
The next item was the Heritage subcommittee. Curtis explained they have worked out some conditions for using the Emery County Foundation as the 501(c)3 organization which will handle funding. Some of which included: The Heritage Area Committee would abide by all rules and bylaws of the foundation. The memorandum of understanding would include an exit clause where either party could withdraw. The foundation would retain fudiciary responsibility for hiring of employees and for purchasing as required by the law. The public lands council would maintain the vision of the project through the implementation process. The foundation would be responsible for all administrative funds. And a non-fund clause which Rosann Fillmore explained meant the county would not have to fund the heritage project.
Curtis explained that projects are funded with built-in administrative costs. It was pointed out that the foundation needs to protect their standing by having a 'clean paper trail,' said Fillmore. It was determined that Curtis would meet with the foundation to work some things out and clarify administrative funding. Johansen wondered if funding for projects was sent as an advance or reimbursement. Curtis responded that usually you are given a quarterly allotment from the federal government.
Hatch mentioned that those with questions should give them to Curtis before he meets with the foundation and he can get those answered at their meeting.
Worwood mentioned that the BLM travel plan is out and the deadline for comments is March 22.
Johnson mentioned that the quiet title action is an ongoing process. He mentioned that roads may or may not be on the BLMs travel plan. The county will have their mapping of roads done by March 1. Johnson is on the quiet title committee as well as an attorney and representatives from other counties.
Johansen requested that Payne draft a response to the BLM travel plan. Hatch suggested that those on the council peruse the document and if anything stands out to them to have Val include that.
Huntington was next on the agenda with the grazing subcommittee report. He mentioned attending the range conference in St. George and that he was cautiously optimistic. He said, "Both Kathleen Clarke, national BLM director and Sally Wisely, state director, affirmed their support of grazing and multiple use. Of the 1600 allotments 450 renewals have been completed and 191 of those have been appealed. These are blanket appeals and their (environmentalists) current method to get grazing removed and the BLM doesn't have the resources or the manpower to keep up," said Huntington.
Representative Johnson said he had met with the governor and the governor said he would offer more support and take a better lead in grazing issues. He also said the attorney general's office would be adding another attorney to help with legal issues concerning grazing. Johnson mentioned that he will be meeting with the governor every two months for a review meeting on these issues. Representative Johnson was interested in what the council wanted him to do as far as the monument issue. Representative Johnson said he would open a bill file for a resolution on the monument, if they told him what they want him to put in it. They have 10 days left in the legislative session.
The Bureau of Land Management update was given by Floyd Johnson, he said, "We have just completed scoping meetings in Green River, Castle Dale and Price. We had good attendance and were pleased. We have received thousands of comments related to the effort. A lot of them have been concerning the Red Rock Wilderness. Other concerns included those who wanted no OHV, no grazing, limited oil and gas and no surface occupancy. That is one opinion to be considered as well as all others."
Floyd Johnson said the BLM would like to hear your issues and concerns with the plan. The Richfield/Wayne County area is just starting their resource management plan. From the Richfield BLM Field Office, Frank Erickson was on hand to discuss their plan. He discussed the management of lands along county lines. He said, "We are currently operating on plans from the 80s and the San Rafael plan of 1991 is the most recent. Those plans are dated due to changes in laws and also OHVs were not a problem in the 80s. They are now an issue, as are wilderness rivers and we have buffalo issues in our area as well. Price is on a two year schedule to complete their plan, but we are on a three year schedule. We are holding scoping meetings in March. We hope to coordinate with Price and use what is good and avoid what is bad. OHV policies currently change with county lines. Decisions need to follow logical lines on the ground not county lines," said Erickson.
Worwood wondered how Secretary of the Interior Babbitt's plan enters into the planning. Floyd Johnson said they would address maintaining rangeland health standards and fire management and planning and build them into their plan. Tom Rasmussen, acting field manager for the Price BLM mentioned that a lot of grazing permits in the San Rafael plan will be up for renewal soon.
John Healy was on hand from the forest service to give an update. He said, "We have a new chief in Washington, Dale Bosworth. He worked in Ogden and is familiar with the intermountain region. Dale is concerned about 'analysis by paralysis.' He wants to focus new emphasis on areas of public/employee safety dealing with large fires. There have been many deaths and he would like to improve safety.
"He also wants to focus on community involvement. He wants to educate people on how to contract with the forest service. He will carry forward the rangeland health plan, fire plan, fire organization and work to reduce fires so we don't have so many."
Healy also pointed out their roads analysis should be completed by the end of the year and the new chief has some changes in this area as well. He has split the policy to make two separate policys between roadless and protected areas. Healy described this as being a 'good move.' "We are still about a year away from public meetings. There has been a sale of timber on the South Manti Muddy drainage.
He also talked about Emery County being involved in the cooperative weed area for weed management. Carbon, Emery, Sevier, BLM, Questar, DWR and Energy West are all involved. Healey encouraged the council to go for grants to help take care of the problem. We need to renew our energy to help control weeds. We attended the Quivira? coalition conference in Albuquerque. The environmentalists and the ranchers work together and there was a real spirit of togetherness coming out of the conference. The land was suffering down there and it is now a good example where ranching was turned around. The environmental community is really picking it up and supporting it. We would like to develop this in our own area. Either as a branch off of Quivira or to develop our own, but I'd like to see us move in that direction.
"Two sheep permittees approached us and wondered if we wanted to buy them out. Which we did, we will use these allotments as a grass bank for sheep. Other sheep permittees will be able to bring their sheep to this allotment and rest their allotments. This will help correct problems in the high land.
"With the continued drought there will be a 10 percent reduction for cattle and a 15 percent reduction for sheep for the coming season. We also might change the season. The land needs time to recover. There is a less than 5 percent chance to get back to average for water this season," said Healy.
Worwood commented on Quivira saying they were working to make rangeland better and their ranchers were making some money. "We are considering bringing some of their people from New Mexico up here to do some workshops."
The DWR reported that the sheep counts on both the north and south San Rafael are doing well. He also encouraged the council to support state management of the animals within the proposed monument area.
Payne explained the Quitchupah road proposals and asked for comments from all land council members concerning their preferences so he can report to Richfield the stand of the council. He expressed his desire to represent what the land council wants. The comment period on Quitchupah has been extended to the first week of March.
The question was brought up of who will be responsible for the maintence of the new road if it is built. One comment from the audience was that the mine (Sufco) currently takes care of the road leading to their mine.
Johansen pointed out that if all the road was built in Sevier County, this would eliminate all input from Emery County. "We need to remain at the table, if you remove that I think you're in trouble. It is important to remain in the process. This will be a public route not just exclusively a haul road," he said.
Bonnie Keele from the audience expressed her wish for haul roads that would take the trucks away from the towns.
One citizen commented there will be coal trucks on the highway regardless of whether Quitchupah road is built or not.
Keele expressed the need to slow down the coal trucks with more serious enforcement of speed limits.
Worwood said they would factor in these comments. He also mentioned that Emery County was not leaning toward condemnation of lands.
Payne said the Heritage Bill was ready for introduction with a few minor wording changes. Peggy Harrison from Congressman Cannon's office recommended the council make the wording changes and send it back in today.
Discussion of the proposed monument was next on the agenda. Commissioner Johnson said, "The media has had a feeding frenzy with this and I would like to complement everyone on how it was handled. The press has defined this as a roads versus no roads issue. The national media likes a good fight and controversy is their focus. I've received a lot of phone calls and on the street comments have been very positive. They've said let it take its course and see what happens with it. I've met with the Secretary of the Interior and she said there is no guarantee the president would approve it. The point that this is grassroots driven is appealing to the president."
Johnson mentioned that the Department of the Interior would go through the public comment process and they would be hearing from them in the near future as to when and where. He also said the county would gear parallel meetings with our folks. These scoping meetings would provide information on other monuments and how they are managed. They would solicit input and ideas from the public.
Johnson mentioned a Salt Lake Tribune article which quoted Cannon as taking exception to the monument as improper use of the Antiquities Act and that a legislative solution approach be taken. Cannon said he was misquoted and he is supportive of Emery County's process. Johnson said they have heard from all legislative members and they are all supportive. In summary, we should say yes to Rep. Johnson here to draft a resolution of support of the process and vision of the monument to the legislature. Johnson also pointed out that discussions on the monument would not be limited to public lands council meetings but separate meetings and discussions dealing only with the monument proposal would be held.
Johansen said he would like to complement Commissioner Johnson for the dialogue with SUWAs attorney, Heidi McIntosh. It was very favorable. He expressed his desire for the public hearings to be held right here in Emery County. Commissioner Johnson said they don't know entirely how the process will go. But local input and fact finding as well as nationwide comments will all be part of the process.
Rep. Johnson said, "I will do whatever it takes to help you. Certain things are really important like grazing, water and recreation. I support all of those and local control. The governor believes this might set a pattern for other designations and he supports local control."
Curtis emphasized the need for a media spokesperson for handling questions. He said in the governor's office they have one spokesperson for one issue and suggested they do that here. Commissioner Hatch recommended that public lands council questions be referred to Dennis (Worwood.) It was decided that both Commissioner Johnson and Chairman Worwood would be available to handle questions on the monument.
A subcommittee for the monument was discussed. Commissioner Johnson suggested the appointment of council member, Tom Roush to chair the subcommittee for recreation. These recommendations will be recommended to the commission.
The next item on the agenda was the discussion of applicants for the vacancies on the public lands council. This discussion was done in executive session and the successful applicants will be recommended to the commission for approval in their next commission meeting.