Emery County continues to work on its land use bill. The lands council subcommittee has held several field trips throughout the spring and summer to look at boundaries on the ground as well as uses on the land. During the spring, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance decided to drop out of all field trips and meetings and discussion. Their new stance was to wait until the bill was ready to be introduced, then if there was anything they didn't like they would protest it at that time. There is a standing invitation for them to participate in all meetings and field trips, but they haven't been a part of the process for a few months now. The Wilderness Society, probably three months back, decided they would like to become more involved in the process and they have been attending meetings and field trips since that time. At the public lands work meeting this morning discussion was held on boundaries of current wilderness study areas.
The lands council is recommending current WSAs become wilderness with boundary adjustments as needed. When the wilderness study areas came into effect 25 years or more ago they contained roads. In many cases the roads were barricaded at the boundary where the wilderness study area began. As the lands council has gone on field trips, even SUWA has seen the nonsensical ways these roads were closed. SUWA even suggested the Sids Leap road be reopened and allow people to travel to the end of the road and see and experience the history of the area. If you don't have access to a spot by a road, chances are you aren't going to see it. The lands council realizes this as they try to maintain access to spots in Emery County that are important to the people of Emery County. They may not be important to anyone else, but the roads and access are important to us.
The passage of a land use bill that includes wilderness is not about closing any roads. Many of the roads that lead into wilderness areas can be cherry-stemmed in to allow access to a wilderness area. As I have traveled about in Emery County, there are many areas, that after you leave the road, you are pretty much in wilderness whether it is designated as wilderness or not. If you have ever been out on one of these roads and stranded, it doesn't take long to realize you are a long way from anywhere and help will probably be a long time coming. Most of us are used to traveling long distances with long stretches of highway in between towns and sometimes when you get to a town there's not much there anyway.
I remember a story I heard of a couple coming in to stay at the Castle Valley Ranch. The lady, upon arrival, couldn't believe how far out in the sticks she was and when she heard the distance to a hospital or a store, she wanted to get out of there.
The point I am fluttering around is we live in a remote area. I don't know how much of Emery County is truly wilderness and adheres to the standards of wilderness by definition. I do know that many areas have roads through them, so are they truly wilderness, do they qualify? I think they still do. I think you need roads to get to the jumping off point where you can begin your wilderness experience.
What if, as SUWA wants with their Americas Red Rock Wilderness Act, all wilderness began just outside of our towns, with just say a 10 mile buffer zone? If we could drive out 10 miles and then there was a barricade saying the road beyond that was in a wilderness area and only accessible by foot or horse, how much of the country would you be able to see? Not very much. We need to be able to access areas, where once you're there, you can hike to your heart's content and experience all of the country you would like. I think there should be some areas where motorized travel shouldn't be allowed, but there should be areas where motorized travel can stay on the roads and trails and ride and ride without bothering anyone.
Our land should be accessible for mineral development. Not all minerals and not all uses in all areas, but specific uses in specific areas. Everyone is different. The experience you want from your public land may not be the same as what someone else wants. Maybe all you want from the land is to graze your cattle, ride your off highway vehicle, and camp in a dispersed spot, more than 150 feet off the road. I believe you should be able to do that. Those who want a rugged experience, there are many places where you can do that, too. We don't need to over-regulate and restrict.
Our forests and deserts offer many opportunities for getting away and hiking, where chances are you won't see anyone else. I guess the thing the Wilderness Society said today that bothered me was they want to have a big meeting and discuss roads. We have our roads, we have the travel plan the BLM worked on for 10 years or more at a large expenditure of tax payer dollars. We have our seven roads which are in litigation to be reopened. We have numerous roads that were closed which the county has chosen not to litigate. What about those roads, does the Wilderness Society want to help the county get some of our legitimate roads opened again. I don't think we need to discuss roads. Whatever we have we want to keep, we've already given up enough.
I am always happy the environmental movement isn't that old. If they had been around back in the day, no doubt our westward expansion would have ended with the 13 original colonies.
I really should be nicer, but I'm not today. I know the Wilderness Society group has been very nice in trying to work with the county, but this is our county. Why do these people always think they need to come down here and manage us? It bugs me. I heard one of them say they were going to spend the next week in Washington, D.C. Well, I bet they weren't going to hike back to Washington D.C. enjoying the wilderness along the way. No doubt they will use an airplane that by chance is using fuel that comes from some fossilized animal or plant somewhere.
Why is it that some can enjoy the joys of modern civilization on one hand and then become annoyed with Emery County because they want to use their roads, which their ancestors worked and sweated to build?
It's a bit of a double standard if you ask me.