By Sara Price
Emery County Commissioner JR Nelson spoke at the commission meeting Nov. 26 about the recent fire district meeting he attended, among other topics.
“It never ceases to amaze me how much the volunteer firefighters do for the county,” he said. “In the recent meeting I learned that in Emery County, the average volunteer firefighter does 190 hours of training on their own dime and own time.”
“I can’t say enough thank yous to those firefighters.”
He also brought up how fire departments are trying to get new pumper trucks and that the ones they currently use are “antiques” by his standards, and that if they were to register with the DMV they would get a discount for how old they are.
Nelson also reported on the recent Utah Association of Counties Convention in St. George he attended.
“I judge these meetings by how many things they tell us we need to be worried about,” he said. “By that standard this was a very good meeting.”
He then invited Emery County Public Lands Director Ray Petersen to expand on it.
Peterson stated that Greater Sage Grouse are an issue Utah counties and even the greater West. Emery County is not as impacted as much as other counties, but Emery County does have two sites where the Greater Sage Grouse live. These two sites are located near “the Pines and Horn Mountain,” and concerns have been raised over the mining and grazing that takes place in these areas.
The Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Wayne County, and Emery County were in attendance according to Petersen.
“Management in Wayne County should be the poster child for good management,” he said. “The population for Greater Sage Grouse has raised 400 percent.”
The intent of the bill being considered is to prevent the birds from being molested. Petersen hopes Fish and Wildlife will recognize the state’s successful management of this species and allow them to continue. If they do not, management for this species will be turned over to Fish and Wildlife.
“[They] do not have a good record of species reclamation,” Petersen said of Fish and Wildlife. “They liked to draw a big circle around the species and ban anyone from doing anything there.”
Instead of isolation of the species, Petersen stated that he would like to see them “marry the best aspects of the two alternatives and adopt it as a management plan.”
Petersen stated that Manti-La Sal and Fish Lake District Manager of Forest Services Allen Rowley has been supportive and that a follow up will occur in mid December.
Commissioner Ethan Migliori then asked Petersen to comment about the BLM withholding leases.
Petersen responded that oil and gas leases were up for sale and the BLM deferred the sale of 90,000 acres from being offered. This has caused Emery County some concern because the decision was made at the last minute.
“They made the decision on the Friday before the lease sales on Tuesday,” he said. “We enlisted Washington’s help to let the BLM know this isn’t good business.”
Sales have been good this year. Petersen stated that in the past few years during lease sales no leases have been purchased. During this recent sale 29 of the 35 parcels offered were sold and he hopes the BLM will offer the other parcels soon. Petersen stated that the lease sales showed a rebound in interest in the oil and gas industry. The deferred parcels are located at Molen Reef, in the Price area, and Woodside. He stated that the BLM assured him that the lease sales are deferred and not withdrawn, which requires these parcels to receive a closer look from resource management before the sales will open again.
Nelson stated that the Emery County Conservancy District had an emergency meeting over contracts.
“The bureau of reclamation is trying to take over control of 6,000 acre feet of water in Emery County for the federal government,” he said. “They are holding the Emery County Conservancy District hostage with these contracts trying to strong arm them into giving over control. It’ll be a tough battle, but one we have to fight.”
Migliori recently attended a meeting concerning public utilities and the setup of transmission lines from Wyoming to California.
“There’s no point in allowing transmission lines to run through the county without the county getting to benefit from them,” he stated. He also said Emery County could soon have a nuclear power plant.
Migliori added that about half of the mayors in Emery County have changed and he was pleased to meet Castle Dale City’s new Mayor Danny Van Wagoner.
“The cities have been asking the commissioners for a universal county pet ordinance for them to follow,” he said. “Citizens have become frustrated trying to navigate the pet ordinances when they move to a new city inside Emery County due to the differences.”
Orangeville has a bridge that needs restoration work. Migliori thanked Petersen and the road department for all the work they have done in setting up the last of the signs. The latest two are located at Tomsich Butte and Lucky Strike, which designate them as historic sites.
“With these designations it will help the county to convince state and federal agencies to keep the roads open,” he stated. He would also like a silhouette of the Spanish Trail set up at Buckhorn Wash.
Migliori stressed the “Shop Local Campaign.” Migliori said that Huntington and Castle Dale have suffered a $60,000 loss in sales tax after Consol Mine shut down. He stated that cities need these dollars to stay in the county.
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks mentioned the South Moore Road. He stated that with the help of Richfield and Carbon County the project is moving ahead.
“The county is working closely with the local housing authority and US Department of Housing and Urban Development on improving the low-income housing units to make them better for residents,” Horrocks explained.
He stated that he’s also been working with the government’s office of tourism to enhance tourism dollars into the county.
“Tourists have been coming to Joe’s Valley for rock climbing, and there’s been people from Australia, New Zealand, all over really,” he said. “Joe’s Valley needs restrooms, parking, and camping.”