By Julie Johansen
Chairman Rod Player opened Tuesday’s Emery County Public Lands meeting with comments about the littering on public lands in the area. He specially mentioned the difference he noticed between the High Uintahs and the Manti-La Sal National Forest. He said the only way to really make a difference is to pick up after yourselves and others as you travel though those public lands.
“When you see something in a pristine condition, it makes you want to leave it that way,” Player said.
Emery County Commissioner Kent Wilson then reported on a recreation board meeting with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The purpose of these meetings is to create a management plan. They are hoping to gather comments on what improvements or changes need to be made. They also spoke about the wild horse and burro problems as well as cattle management.
Wilson said the county is making it a priority to get something done to stop the overgrazing in the desert. Although the rain has helped, the wild horse numbers continue to be much larger than the desert can maintain. Council member McElprang said that if anyone is doubting this, now would be a good time to make a comparison as the rains show a marked difference on pastures where the horses do not graze.
Chairman Player then called on Jay Mark Humphrey, who is now serving on the Colorado River Authority Board, and asked him to report. He stated that a special service district has been created and the Bureau of Reclamation gave a report on the impact of the drought. Humphrey stated that some water will be turned out of the upper reservoirs to help with levels at Lake Powell, which furnishes water for both Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam.
Humphrey was also asked about water levels at Joe’s Valley. He said that the reservoir is the lowest it has ever been since initially filled. It is now at about 38,000 acre feet when it normally is at 56,000 acre feet. There will be stock water until October and water for PacifiCorp until March.
There were no BLM officials at the meeting and the report was that the staff members are in other states fighting fires.
Blair Kettle from the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining next addressed the council and audience. He began by speaking about the tragedy at the Rhino Mine from the flood in Bear Canyon. He noted that MSHA is installing new drainage systems at that mine and the surrounding canyons. There was also erosion at Skyline and Deer Creek.
Kettle also explained Emery County has never been very active in oil and gas applications and there have been none this year, except for helium reserves. The decline has reached about 12% in Utah with a sharper decrease than that in Emery County.
Discussion on the Crandall Canyon reclamation highlighted the difference of opinions as to what should or should not be done. Emery County would like it left as it is with just parking lot in the area of memorial. Jim Jennings then reported that the coal lease has been granted again and as long as the leases is active, no reclamation will be enforced. It was the public land council’s request that Emery County Commissioner Lynn Sitterud head a subcommittee to decide what should be done.
Chris Wood from the Division of Wildlife Resources then reported that the aquatic department is restoring spots in Huntington Creek to expand the population of the brown and cut throat trout. Work has also been done in Ferron Creek. Biologists are doing bat surveys at this time as well. Wood then said that the hunts have begun and the Range Creek Bison harvest was approximately 100 head. The migration of the bison from the tribal lands has not happened yet but it has been determined that the best way to handle the problem is with hunts.
Bryan Torgersen, School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, joined the group virtually and spoke about their appreciation of working so closely with the public lands council. He reported that there has been an application for a communications tower for public safety in the Little Wildhorse Canyon area to aid in the rescue of people there. He said that the land in question will be owned by the BLM following the trades prescribed in the Dingell Act, so they will be working with the BLM. A lot of people have pushed to get this tower finished.
Clair Smith, Goblin Valley Park Ranger, announced that bidding will begin soon on the campground extension at Goblin Valley. Thirty five more full service sites are planned. Smith also announced that Nathan Martinez is the ranger at Green River. Because of the heat, glow ball golf tournaments have been the main event in Green River but other tournaments are beginning now. The parks have experienced a slow down in August as the weekends are still full but weekdays are tapering off. Boats can no longer launch at Millsite but it will be the site for the Sept. 7-11 OHV Jamboree. Huntington Reservoir is still open and launching is possible. Scofield attendance dipped because of the algae bloom.
Nathan Roberts, Department of Agriculture, spoke about the Grazing Improvement Program being offered for private or public pastures or range land. The goal is to help producers improve production.
To conclude, the Washington Delegation had little to say because the emphasis is mainly on Afghanistan and infrastructure.