|Sage grouse numbers are improving throughout the area.|
Todd Black, from Utah State University, was at the recent Emery County Public Lands Council meeting with a presentation concerning the Gunnison sage grouse in Utah. The power point presentation explained the sage grouse numbers in Utah, and how the state has been divided into 13 areas for management purposes.
In June of 2002, the US Fish and Wildlife Service set a strategic management plan into place to protect and preserve the habitat of the sage grouse, whose numbers were so low that it was being considered for an endangered species listing. In an effort to increase the sage grouse numbers so the bird would not be listed, a cooperative was formed to begin the process. USU oversees the cooperative and works with the local group in each of the 13 areas of the state.
Each of the 13 individual management units in Utah have a local working group consisting of local representatives who best know the conditions of that unit. In the Emery/Carbon county area the group is named the Castle Country Adaptive Resource Management and their next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2006 at 7 p.m. at the Carbon County Fairgrounds. They welcome all county representatives to attend the meeting to become informed and get involved with the process to keep sage grouse from being listed.
Ray Petersen, public lands director for Emery County, reported that a project begun by the forest service last year has not made any forward progress. "The ranger began the project to inventory every road and trail in each of the drainages into Emery County. Last year, the inventory of the Muddy drainage was completed and was very well accepted by all the parties involved. Plans were underway to begin the inventory process this year moving northward into the Ferron drainage. The Muddy process was encouraging, I feel this project should continue," said Petersen.
He further stated that in a recent conversation with the ranger, it had been mentioned that no support from upper management of the forest service was coming, and the project has been interrupted. Petersen asked the lands council to consider drafting a letter to be sent to Alice Carlton, the regional supervisor of the forest service, urging that the project be continued because of the value to everyone involved. All other agencies can benefit from the actions the forest service is taking with the road inventory.
Another item to be addressed in the letter would be the enforcement issues. There are several areas that are being abused by ATVs in the forest, and there is a need for more law enforcement presence in the forest. "Most of the damage happened during the hunting season. Unfortunately there are those sportsmen out there that give all hunters a bad name," said Councilmember Eric Luke. "Maybe more seasonal closures should be considered for the forest," said Luke. All council members endorsed the concept of the letter and the council approved sending it to Carlton.
Following the consideration of the letter to be sent to the forest service, Councilman Sherrel Ward stated that having Deputy Ray Jeffs in the Swell has proved to be a great value. Ward said that destruction has decreased and Deputy Jeffs is doing a great job to educate users of the Swell on the open routes.
Petersen talked about patents which are taken out by cities or counties to administer a portion of public land for recreational uses. Currently Ferron holds a patent for a portion of land that is designated for an ATV play area. Emery is considering a patent for a portion of land near their city. "Huntington and Green River are in the process and considering the same patent for ATV play areas near their towns also, The BLM is desirous for cities to take these patents and encourage them to do so," said Petersen. These patents fill a need that each city recognizes concerning ATV use around the towns. "Liability is an issue for further discussion. I want everyone to think about this and be aware of it," continued Petersen. Petersen stated that he is continuing to work with the BLM on a new route designation map for the Swell. This is an update of the 2003 map and does not close or open any new routes.
Beetle killed trees was the subject Councilman Gary Petty reported about. He said he had been to a forest service open house and the problem of cleaning up the dead trees in the forest is ongoing. "The forest service does not have a handle on the problem. We need to get that timber out of there, our watersheds are at stake," said Petty.
Petersen commented that ATVs and the beetle killed trees are the two biggest issues facing the forest service at the present. "Everyone involved with these issues is frustrated with the condition of the forest," said Petersen. Vernell Rowley is over the heritage portion of the lands council. He reported several interesting facts about the Spanish Trail which runs through Emery County. "Capt. Gunnison surveyed the trail in 1853, in 1855 the Elk Mountain Mission used it, in 1878 the star mail route ran on it, in 1880, two Orangeville residents used it to transport produce back and forth to Green River, and in 1934, H.J. Oliver was commissioned to put bench markers on the trail," said Rowley.