A group of Emery County residents have formed a new organization which they say is intended to provide information to the public on a wide range of issues that will impact them in the future.
The Castle Country Rural Alliance has slowly been taking shape over the last several weeks as a nonprofit coalition of individuals and groups interested in getting the public involved in issues that will shape the direction of not only Emery County but the entire Castle Country area.
"We felt a great need to try and provide a wider public base regarding land issues," said Paul Conover, spokesperson for the alliance. Conover said that the intent of the alliance is to not focus solely on land issues, but with more than 80 percent of the county designated as public land, land issues will often be at the forefront of the alliance's endeavors.
"We want to get business people to coordinate with us to work on economic development issues as well. But almost anything you want to do in the area involves public land," Conover said.
Although still in its infancy, Conover said the alliance was formed in response to a variety of land issues that are currently in the works, specifically the proposal to designate the San Rafael Swell as a national monument and the Bureau of Land Management's travel plan for the San Rafael. Conover said that the alliance is going through the legal steps necessary for it to be designated as a nonprofit organization and is in the process of filling a management board. Legal requirements call for a nonprofit organization to have a board of at least three individuals, but Conover said the alliance plans to have a board of five members composed of those representing interests in recreational travel, water conservancy, business interest and livestock. Conover said the alliance doesn't plan to focus on one special interest group's goals. Plans are for the alliance to eventually develop subgroups which will focus on individual issues and agendas.
Organizers of the alliance met Friday night to hammer out a mission statement for the alliance, which reads as: The mission of Castle Country Rural Alliance is to involve the widest number of citizens in support of strong communities, vigorous economies and healthy environments.
Once the alliance has completed the necessary paperwork to be designated as a nonprofit organization it plans to solicit membership and hold monthly meetings, according to Conover.
The first public forum the alliance has organized is a town meeting planned for March 23 at 7 p.m. at Canyon View Junior High School. The subject of the meeting is the proposed San Rafael national monument and organizers plan to provide information on what national monuments are and are not, as well as address federal land use planning, access, grazing, water, buffer zones, off highway vehicle use and camping. Jim Parker, a former Utah state director of the Bureau of Land Management; and Dave Skinner, who works with Montanans for Multiple Use and specializes in helping grass roots groups work with federal land managers, are the featured speakers for the meeting.
The Emery County Public Lands Council is sponsoring its own set of meetings considering the monument proposal, one on Friday night in Green River and another on Saturday morning in Castle Dale (see related story on Page 1A).
While the monument proposal was one of the reasons for the alliance's creation, Conover said the alliance is not necessarily opposed to the monument. "We're neutral on the proposal. We're trying to help the public learn all they can about the pros and cons of the monument," he said.
The fact that the language of the monument proposal will be drafted locally is good news to the alliance. "That's very good news. The alliance appreciates what has happened," Conover said.
While the monument proposal is the most pressing of issues the alliance hopes to provide information to the public on, it is only one of many issues the region faces in the coming years. "There's a lot of issues that are going to have to be worked on in the next five years," said Conover. Among them are the BLM travel plan and resource management plan, the Forest Service forest management plan, roads and trails analysis and inventoried roadless areas, economic development activities as well as the Arapeen connector trail system.
As the alliance grows Conover said they hope to draw members from the Carbon County and Green River areas as well. Alliance members look forward to working with county and city governments on issues that impact everyone. "County and city government will play a big part in what we try and do. We hope to work hand in hand with them on issues so they know how the public feels," he said.
Conover admitted that the alliance will have its own struggle of dealing with what is perceived as public apathy when it comes to a great many issues to be decided on in the county. He said that in months to come the alliance plans to produce a monthly newsletter to provide specifics on issues brewing in the region. As for public sentiment on the creation of the alliance, Conover said that people who have been talked to about the alliance have been in favor of its goals. "The people we talk to are in favor of if, but we'll find out on Saturday what the response is," he said.