By Julie Johansen
Chairman Rod Player opened the Emery County Public Lands Council meeting on Jan. 2 with questions about previous meeting concerns from the council. The first discussion was regarding Long Street in Green River.
Council member Kim McFarlane spoke with the Green River City Council and the members feel it is important to maintain access to the public lands now blocked by property owners. Emery County has worked to get access at this point for years and council members are calling for action.
It was decided to invite Emery County Attorney Mike Olsen to the next meeting to explain what has been done and what legally can be done, as well as how to go about it. The board would also like some written documentation about attempts to access the public land north of Long Street.
The next pending concern was what has happened in regard to the fences along the San Rafael River. Council member Leon McElprang reported speaking with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and that progress is going to happen with follow through.
The BLM began the agency reports by announcing that the District Manager Lance Porter has retired and Eliza Waters will be replacing him. He explained that the Mathis Gravel Pit is expanding and should help the county road department. Jadon Mead is the project manager for the San Rafael Travel Management Plan and he announced that they are finalizing the draft plans now. The plan should be released in February, with the public comment period expected in April. From there, decisions should be made by the end of 2024.
Mead was then questioned about access to the trails in Cow and Calf canyons. This is part of the trade between the BLM and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). Brian Torgersen assured that SITLA is very access-oriented and these issues are being considered. A presentation from SITLA is planned for next month’s meeting that should help to explain these transfers. Torgersen also said that all permits, travel or grazing on state land would be transferred to the BLM with the land swaps.
Marc Stilson with the Division of Water Rights spoke about saving water with the Agriculture Authorization Program and now these same rights will apply to all water rights. How this water is being saved is currently being identified.
The Department of Oil Gas and Mining then identified a new director, Richard Mick Thomas. He said that Lila Canyon Mine has a temporary cessation date of Jan. 19, 2024. When questioned about the brine water testing of lithium mines near Green River, he replied that the legislature would be regulating these issues. They have had no new lithium applications.
Chris Wood with the Division of Wildlife Resources announced a board meeting on Jan. 6. He also informed the council that because there has been no snow to aid in the round up and capture, the pronghorn transfer from Parker Mountain to Emery County has not happened yet, but might happen in the coming weeks. He also spoke of the Utah law regarding the reintroduction of wolves into Colorado. Wood explained that if a wolf crosses into Utah, it will be tracked, trapped and returned to Colorado.
Kevin Albrecht of the Forest Service called the state’s wolf agreement incredible. He added there has been real devastation in surrounding states with wolves, but it is a big deal to manage “0” wolves in Utah. An avalanche beacon has been moved to the Fairview parking lot. With the present weather, the Forest Service crew has been able to work on Dairy and Dry Wash Trails.
Albrecht also said that the Forest Service is hiring with YCC program. This is for youth between 14 and 17 years of age. They can apply online or at the Forest Service office. State Parks reported that the Green River State Park has 13 new sites and four tiny homes ready, but they are waiting for power at the park. There were also some adjustments at the golf course, but the course remains the same size.
Outdoor Recreation spoke about the large number of adult education course completions to obtain an UTV license. He said in Utah, 226,000 have been completed by Utah residents and non-residents. Also, 13,000 youth have also completed their course and so they are opening in-person courses in the near future.
The Department of Agriculture announced that the Water Optimization program closes the end of January and even though it may be tedious to fill out the application, help is available at the office.
Jay Mark Humphrey from the Emery Water Conservancy District announced that the snow pack is only 50% and the reservoirs are at 80 %, but snow is greatly needed.