On Oct. 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This established a process for protecting the legacy of our Nation's rivers. After decades of dam building and development, Congress decided to preserve the beauty and free flowing nature of our rivers and waterways.
The Act reads in part, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstanding remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations..."
A meeting was held on Jan. 23 at the Huntington Town Hall for the purpose of informing the public and answering any questions they may have for the process being undertaken by the US Forest Service for the rivers in Utah with the draft environmental impact statement now being considered. During the formulation of the forest management plans for the forests, the rivers were scrutinized for the eligibility and classification portions of the wild and scenic process. In the Emery County area, Huntington Creek and the Left Fork of Huntington Creek are being considered in the suitability phase of this process.
In the first phase, the eligibility phase, a river must be free flowing and have at least one river related outstanding remarkable value. In the Act, an ORV is considered to include scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar value.
Eligible rivers are then given a preliminary classification. This classification is based on the relative level of access and development surrounding the river. The remaining two steps in the wild and scenic process are suitability and designation. The process for the rivers in Utah is currently in the suitability phase.
In the suitability phase, a myriad of factors are considered. Some of those factors are: other land uses; water development; existing management factors; support or opposition for designation; river contributions to river system integrity; commitment of volunteers or opportunity for partners in management; and consistency with other plans, programs or policies. This list in not all inclusive and other factors may be taken into account.
The six alternatives being considered during the DEIS are: Alternative #1-no action, maintain eligibility of all river segments; Alternative #2-no rivers recommended; Alternative #3-recommend rivers that best represent Utah ORVs while having the least affect on existing or reasonably foreseeable future water resources projects and other development activities; Alternative #4-recommend rivers that best represent Utah ORVs that could be adversely affected by existing or reasonably foreseeable future water resources projects and other developmental activities; Alternative #5-recommend rivers with low cost for management that are consistent with other federal wild and scenic studies and which have limited negative impact to community economic development; and Alternative #6-recommend river segments recognized by public groups that represent a diversity of river systems in Utah and those that face future threats. Alternative #3 is the alternative preferred by Utah's wild and scenic river committee, which is made up of the supervisors from the six national forests in the state. Those same six forest supervisors will make the suitability decision.
When this process is complete in Utah, the designation recommendations will be sent to the Secretary of Agriculture, who will in turn review them and make his recommendations to the President of the United States. At that time the President will review and send his recommendations to Congress. The Congress of the United States will have the ultimate decision concerning the designation of the wild and scenic rivers.
All citizens are encouraged to comment on this proposal. Comments are due by Feb. 15 and can be made by: mail to Utah NF Wild and Scenic River DEIS, P.O. Box 162969, Sacramento, CA 95816-2969; email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or fax to 916-456-6724. For more information contact Cathy Kahlow at 435-783-4338, Val Payne at 801-537-9297, or Kenton Call at 435-865-3730. Information can also be obtained at the Website, www.fs.fed.us/r4/rivers/.