Emery County continues to work on a land use bill to protect the public lands in the county.
By PATSY STODDARD Editor
Gary Petty, vice chairman, conducted the April Emery County Public Lands Council meeting in the absence of chairman Bruce Wilson. Ray Petersen, public lands director said the commission took action on the discussion of the March public lands meeting and hired Payne Relief LLC. Val Payne will work with Petersen's supervision. Petersen has given Payne assignments and he has been working on them. "That accomplished what we're trying to do and allows me more time to spend on the legislation," said Petersen. The lands council will take a field trip on April 8 to the Mackay Flat, Hidden Splendor region.
The BLM reported the mineral report was finished for the patent on the land for the shooting range at the land fill. The state office will finish that paperwork. Mike Leschin from the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur quarry reported a dig this year at the quarry. The Buckhorn Flat information contract has to be into the BLM by May 1. A question was asked of when the Elliot Road would be repaired. The BLM said they would check into it. The water troughs at the Buckhorn Draw may be moved. Interviews were held for a new field director for the Price office. The approval will come from Washington. A new field manager for the Moab office will report on Monday.
In the Division of Wildlife Resources report, Justin Hart talked about improvements to the fisheries in Emery County. He said Joe's Valley has been stocked twice with tiger muskies. It will be an added attraction to the county and fishermen will come to the area to fish for the tiger muskies and hopefully buy gas and supplies in the area. Wipers have been stocked at Huntington North Reservoir, 10,000 small 2.5 inch fingerlings. The DWR will do net surveys in July to see how the wipers are progressing. When the tiger muskie become large enough to catch then the limit will be one fish more than 40 inches. The wipers limit is six fish. Work has been completed at the Huntington fish and game pond. It was drained and cleaned out last fall. Large mouth bass have been stocked in there and it will be stocked with rainbow and fingerling bluegill later on. This is a family fishery and the parking is being improved so you can park closer to the pond. This will be seasonal access for fishing. Later on in the fall it will be walking access only as the pheasant hunts for youth are held there.
Hart reported on the work at Duck Fork. In 2002-03 it was treated with rotenone to kill the fish there. It was restocked with Colorado cutthroat trout. Last year 64,000 eggs were gathered from the reservoir. It looks like 30,000 fish have survived the fingerling stage at the reservoir. Work will now begin on restoring the Colorado cutthroat where it's practical. The Ferron is an attractive drainage for re-establishing these native fish to the area. This work is going on partially to prevent listing of the Colorado cutthroat and also to restore the fish so people can catch them. Streams would be treated and then the Colorado cutthroat would be introduced. Treatment would occur in phases and the native fish returned to the streams.
Hart said sometimes they hear the complaint that these types of restorations restrict fishing opportunities. Hart said he doesn't feel that's the case and the fishing opportunities in the county will diversify. The starting point for the treatments will be Ferron Reservoir which now contains non-native cutthroats and rainbows. When the Colorado cutthroat is reintroduced then the DWR wants to keep the strain pure. A blocking device will need to be installed along the way to keep fish from migrating from Millsite upstream. Currently you can't catch the Colorado cutthroat at Duck Fork until the population builds up there afterwhich there may be a two fish limit. In 2003, 800 Colorado cutthroat were stocked in and 10,000 have been stocked back into Duck Fork. The goal is to end up with something better said Hart.
Lands council member Randall Stilson wondered if the limit restrictions could be lifted for fish on a reservoir that is going to be treated. Hart said that will be looked at and limits have been raised in other areas prior to a treatment.
The lands council determined they will send a letter of support to the DWR in support of the work on the Ferron drainage.
Bill Bates, DWR regional director said the DWR is looking for someone to take the place of Walt Maldonado on the DWR-RAC. Walt resigned because he will be working part-time for the DWR. Bates said they hope to get someone from the Green River area.
Bates told of proposals before the wildlife board for changes in the hunting seasons for the 2011 season. The board is looking at a combined hunt for deer and elk with an early season from Oct. 3-11 and a late season Oct 21-29. The proposal is for an eight day season, but due to low deer numbers five day hunts have been held the past few years. The muzzleloader deer and elk season would be held between the two rifle seasons with that hunt Oct. 12-20. The hunters would have to choose between the early and late hunt and would need to draw out. These are just ideas Bates pointed out and the DWR is taking comments. The DWR thinks these changes might minimize hunting pressure. An informational meeting will be held in September and the proposed changes will be voted on by the wildlife board in November. Comments can be sent to billbates.gov. Bates would like to set up an informational meeting in Emery County. Dedicated hunters would also need to choose the early or late hunt for the general season. Another idea being considered is choosing a unit to hunt in, with unit by unit draws. This idea is being considered for the 2012 season and the idea was introduced by sportsmen. This idea has been considered before, but turned down because people wanted more hunting opportunities than hunting in one unit affords.
The question was asked of how the deer have wintered. Bates said the counts aren't in yet, but in one unit it was 40 fawns per 100 does which is about average, but the fawns looked rough. Another matter brought up at the wildlife board was closing the Henrys to shed horn hunting. There have been groups lining up and walking behind the deer which has been hard on the animals. It was determined not to close the Henrys to shed horn hunting, but the hunters will need to stay on the designated routes.
Marc Stilson from the division of water rights said hearings will be held on April 21-22 on a change by the forest service to install troughs on Middle Mountain. The hearings are in Price at 9 a.m.
HB141 which passed turns back the clock on access for anglers through private property. It is legal to float and navigate streams, but it is illegal to get off along private property. A taskforce will study this issue through the year until the next legislative session. The DWR is working on walk-in access on cooperative fishing units, this is a new idea they are looking at to help solve access issues through private property for fishermen.
Bryan Torgersen from SITLA said they are evaluating a map for possible land exchanges between Emery County and SITLA for the land use bill. In regards to the illegal dump site near Elmo the county has put up no dumping signs there. SITLA will cleanup the site as soon as the ground has dried out. After the clean-up it will be important for the dumping to cease at the site. The area will be patrolled to help ensure no further dumping take place there. There will be a historical marker along the San Rafael River with information on Sheriff Tuttle who died there. This recognition is being put there by his family members.
In the forest service report Darin Olsen introduced himself. He is the new district ranger in Ferron. He said he has 10 years experience from Colorado to Idaho and most recently in Montana. He is glad to be here and is in his second week in Ferron. He said there is probably interest in the Gooseberry Narrows and a draft Environmental impact study is out on that project. Randall Stilson said the Olsen Canyon access trail has been closed forever and NEPA needs to be done there so it can be reopened. Olsen said he would check into it. The road at Reeder Subdivision needs to be approved so that project can proceed this summer. Misti Christiansen also requested Olsen look at the closures by the Julius Flat Reservoir. Large trees were placed across the trails and they can no longer get their cattle through there.
Donna Sackett from Sen. Bennett's office said they have had some changes in their Washington staff. Luke Johnson has come on board to work on public land issues. Casey Snyder will be his assistant.
Christiansen asked Sackett if when the Emery County land use bill is ready and if it becomes something the county doesn't want will Sen. Bennett pull it. Sen. Bennett's staff said it has always been their intent to pull the plug on the bill if the county chooses.
Guy Webster, council member said the lands council needs to have a plan and a limit of what they will accept and what they won't. Webster said he has been in Washington County talking to people and some are dissatisfied with the Washington County bill.
It was mentioned that Rep. Jim Matheson is introducing a wilderness bill in the Salt Lake area. "How easy would it be to attach the San Rafael with that bill?"
Sen. Bennett's staff said that wilderness bill doesn't fit with the San Rafael Swell so he doesn't see it being attached in anyway. For now there isn't a sponsor on the Senate side for Matheson's bill.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is planning to visit Utah this month. He is meeting with the balanced resource group.
Sherrel Ward read a press release by Sen. Bennett where he criticized the last BLM oil and gas lease sale. Saying it was the smallest in history which will drive the oil and gas industry into an anemic state.
Ward said he is worried with such a political climate that Pres. Obama wouldn't hesitate to designate the Swell as a monument and he encouraged the council to get their land use bill going.
Brian Hawthorne asked the Washington delegation what we can do to stop a monument, stop unilateral designations and stop any future designations.
Sen. Bennett's staff said Pres. Obama is aware that Utah counties are working on their own local land use bills. Sen. Bennett has introduced legislation to exempt Utah from the Antiquities Act. Council member Jon Gilbert said recently it was talked about how Pres. Obama opened up the oil and gas leases off shore along the East coast. Gilbert said these oil and gas leases aren't recent, but they were signed off on years ago and have been held up for years.
Hawthorne from the Blue Ribbon coalition said he hopes the Utah delegation would introduce such a bill every year.
Ward asked how the Emery County land use bill is moving. Petersen said he hopes to have a draft ready and a map in two weeks. Petersen said he agreed with Webster that the county needs to establish parameters for what the county will support. Work meetings need to be set-up.
A question was asked how close the other counties are in having their land use bills ready. Randy Johnson reported that Beaver/Piute is being sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch. San Juan is close to being ready. It looks like those bills can be completed this spring and are on course to be introduced this fall.
Petty asked, "Are there any advantages to combining with other counties?" Johnson said as we get better at going through the process it will be better to work in regions in the future. Johnson said he thinks an Emery County bill can move along pretty well. "I know there's concern about Emery County trying something, I'm not sure I can tell you you're better off this year, or the start of a new Congress. I suggest you get ready this year to introduce the land use bill in 2011." Johnson said it is a complicated issue and Emery County is a large, major county. There are big things to work out like the SITLA trades and there is plenty of work to do. Johnson said in his opinion it can't all be completed in time to get a hearing on the bill this year. Johnson said Wayne County would like to work with Emery County because they feel they are small and understaffed. It could be beneficial to both counties as they share some land on the Swell. This can be decided as the bill moves along. Wayne County has a planning council, but they aren't ready this year.
Webster said he likes the idea of a single county bill better so you don't have to deal with other county's problems. Webster was asked what the dissatisfaction was with the Washington County bill for the people he talked to. He said the issues were with the High Desert Trail systems that they weren't happy with and one of the people felt they'd been lied to.
Johnson said there were two Washington County bills, the original and the one that passed. Both sides had to relook at the bill. "Some of what Sen. Reid did in Nevada, wasn't available to us. Those large land sells aren't available now. Some of what Sen. Reid did is not available in Utah."
Johnson said he reported to the BLM RAC this last week and the county commissioner from Washington County also reported that from the county perspective they are happy with the bill. There are things they gave up, but they are comfortable with the bill, and glad to have it resolved.
"In our bill, we're not going to pass a bill that has everything we want. People on all sides will have to give something up. (Decide) Which issues you will allow and what you won't. In the original Washington County bill, it had no bipartisan support. It was attached to a large omnibus bill."
Johnson said the original Washington County bill had land sales of up to 25,000 acres of BLM land. The end product had only 6,500 acres. The wilderness acreage in the bill didn't change. The bill contained a National Conservation area where the acreage changed some. The land sales came out of the bill and converted to acquisitions. Emery County is not looking at large land sales. "Anything we lost in Washington County, won't adversely impact you (Emery County) because there aren't a lot of land sales involved," said Johnson.
Payne said exit strategies have always been included in any land use process Emery County has been involved with. Payne recalled a time when Rep. Jim Hansen pulled a bill for Emery County. Something was being attached to the bill and Johnson gave the kill sign from the gallery and Hansen immediately pulled the bill.
With the Washington County bill a small thing was being disputed and Sen. Bennett was willing to pull the bill. Nobody in Congress can hijack someone elses bill. They can amend or change the bill, but they can't assume the identity of the bill. Someone would have to start all over again with their own bill.
Johnson said it makes sense for Beaver/Piute to work together because they share a mountain. He encouraged the council to consider working with Wayne County.
Mark H. Williams said at the BLM RAC the mayor from St. George gave a report where he said in the Beaver Dam Conservation Area the roads have been set. The roads aren't set yet in the other areas. A travel plan is being worked on. The mayor said it's important for all information to be made available to the public. Their mayor said each city should have recreational land surrounding the cities for use by the people. The mayor suggested in developing a plan to get a map and start at one end and work everything out across the land until you get to the other end.
Brooke Williams from SUWA said the information coming out in this lands council meeting is the same as what they would tell their members, you won't get everything you want, but you need to negotiate. "It would be nice to outline what the next steps will look like. We might all hurt a little bit in the end, but we firmly believe this is the best way to go."
Webster asked Brooke Williams why the America's Red Rock Wilderness Act still includes Washington County. At one time the lands council was told there hadn't been time since the Washington County Bill passed to get that part excluded from the ARRWA.
Brooke Williams said they are still pursuing the ARRWA.
Payne said he didn't feel that discussion was a good use of the lands council time and was more like a personal debate.
Johnson said, "We are not negotiating. The county is gathering information to decide the best use of the land. They will make a recommendation to our delegation. All stake holders will bring their priorities. We will evaluate those things and see what works. It is not a negotiation. There may be some minor negotiations when Sen. Bennett has the bill. It's like a blurry picture we will bring into focus."
Sen. Bennett's staff said the bill is like a road map. We will know what's on the ground and all issues which need to be addressed. All the information will be provided to the Senator to see where the controversies lie.
The question was asked if Sen. Bennett will take on a bill without the support from SUWA.
Sen. Bennett's staff said with the Washington County Bill they knew SUWA didn't support it. After the bill passed SUWA themselves sent out press releases that said they supported the bill. "At the end of the day, we would like broad support, but we went ahead with the Washington County bill and we had supporters and we had opposition. If we have the support of the locals, we will run with it."
Hawthorne said the motorized community has given up a lot. He sees the passage of a bill as a benefit to all parties. "We all might have to give up a little, but it's a mutual benefit in the end, that's the way I like to look at it."
Petersen said, "We aren't drafting a bill for SUWA or USA-All, but for our county. We would like to get as much support as possible."