In Emery and Carbon counties, the biggest percentage of land is public land. As a result, the tourism industry in both counties is very dependent on public lands, and should be very involved in the public land use planning process. The percentage in Emery County is 80 percent, and in Carbon County the number is 60 percent.
At the Castle Valley Economic Summit, one of the sessions addressed the procedure for managing public lands. Floyd Johnson, of the Bureau of Land Management, explained the process they use to manage the lands that are in their jurisdiction. "The land use planning process is complex and lengthy," Johnson stated. "The BLM began with the process with scoping meetings in late 2001, and we expect the entire process to take four -five years."
Marlene Depietro of the Forest Service said, "Our planning process is very similar to the BLMs. The one difference is that we are working on only the items that need attention. There are still portions of our old management plan that are still valid. We have identified certain items that require public comment. We are asking the public 'How do you use the forest?' We have made a rolling alternative, we are beginning wide and will narrow it down as we go. We are having more public meetings in November and we need public comments."
The third member of the panel, Val Payne, represents the Governor's office. He works in the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office for Gov. Jon Huntsman. Payne has been involved in the public lands process for many years, having served as Emery County's public lands director, and is familiar with the process for acquiring permits and permission to do projects on public land.
"The planning process for public lands deals with a great variety of resources. The agencies involved in this process are required to watch out for the resources and the users, and the many aspects that are involved to manage public lands. There is no end to the planning going on throughout the state. The importance of being involved in the process, in any way, is very important," said Payne.
Fred Hayes, of the Utah State Parks, was the final member of the panel. "The state parks department takes care of the boating, trail systems, and OHVs. The basis of the state parks system was to create economic development throughout the state. With the distribution of state parks, opportunities were created for rural communities by making destination spots spread all over the state.
"Back in 1957, when OHVs were virtually nonexistent, the legislature created an OHV policy. At first, the only OHVs were Jeeps, and it wasn't until the 1980s that the OHV that we know today came into being. Statistics say that every two years, the number of OHVs will double. This statistic clearly shows the need for a well developed trail system with users who are educated about the use of public land. The agencies involved need to try to work together to develop that system," said Hayes.
Mike McCandless, Emery County's economic development director, encouraged everyone to become involved in the process. "The public needs to become involved in the public land use planning process. A great place to start would be to attend an Emery County Public Lands Council meeting. Those meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. here in the county building. This committee cannot make decisions without public input." said McCandless.