Agencies and Council Members Address Public Lands Issues


By Julie Johansen

The Emery County Public Lands Council began its February meeting on Tuesday with a motion to suspend the rules and reappoint Rodney Player as Chairman and Edward Geary as Vice Chairman by acclamation. This motion was approved by unanimous vote.

Chairman Player then read the mission statement of the public lands council to the board and audience. He concluded his reading by stating that everyone on the board needs to ensure that their objectives meet the general plan of the county. Player then spoke about the lack of attendance of council members and reporting agencies. He asked that everyone make an effort to attend meetings in person or virtually and to let him know of any special needs by attendees.

Emery County Commissioner Kent Wilson then spoke about a report from the Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, who has intent to close miles of trials in the South San Rafael Desert. He stated that Emery County and the State of Utah have a problem with that as it had previously been decided that these trails would remain open. He felt that there should have been open communication and a collaborative approach to any decision in this regard. The county was notified by the Price BLM Field Office of this intent.

Kyle Beagley, Price Field Office, reported to the council of four new gas well applications in the area. He also spoke on the right of way transfers to School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), reclamation of a well pad at Bowknot and the Willow Springs CCC Camp Restoration.

Beagley then reported on 3.1 miles of road rerouting on the way to the Jurassic National Monument. In addition, a pinyon and juniper reclamation project of 25,000 acres at the base of the mountain in Carbon and Emery counties is under environmental assessment. He also spoke about the mine tailings that are still burning by Helper from the recent fire and that it has become a large undertaking to put it out.

Steve Fluke of the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining then explained that they had to put this out to bid as it was much larger than previously anticipated. The tailings have to be dug up, spread out and then doused with water and a foam retardant, then mixed with clean soil. Some of the burning is 20 feet below the surface and it is dangerous as it is cracking, meaning someone could walk across and fall through. It is also a threat to wildfires as it advances under the ground.

Following this, Chris Wood, Division of Wildlife Resources, reported on the recent Range Creek Bison hunt in which seven bison were harvested. The Tribal area is being fenced off and the tribe is working on deterring bison from crossing off their lands. Wood also reported on recent deer surveys, which found 60 fawns per 100 does in the local area. This was a much higher ratio than in other areas of the state, but only migratory deer were surveyed. Wood also said that hunting permits for big game are now open.

Bryan Torgerson, SITLA, then reported that the scoping of the Dingell Act Exchange is happening now. He also informed the council there are some small remnant state land parcels being offered for sale. These are 40 acre parcels between Ferron and Moore. Torgerson then spoke about solar projects on SITLA land that are happening in Emery and Carbon counties.

In conclusion, Daren Olsen stated that it is analysis time at the Forest Service and they are reissuing permits. It is also time to make comments on the forest-wide prescribed burns. Olsen concluded by reporting that gates have been closed on forest roads and will remain closed until about April 15.

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