By Julie Johansen
Although S47 has not been signed by President Donald Trump, much of the Emery County Public Lands Council (PLC) meeting on Tuesday was centered around the implementation of the bill.
The Emery County Lands Bill, having received passing votes by both the Senate and House of Representatives, has been in the process for more than 25 years. It was combined with over 100 bills before presentation to the Legislature and was the major bill of the bundle.
Chairman Rod Player reported having watched some of the discussion on the floor with many giving favorable exclamations of the bill. He also reported of the permanent status of the Lands and Water Conservation Act, which has previously been renewable. Over the years, Utah has received over $186 million from offshore drilling, which has been distributed throughout the state, Emery County has received $293,000 used for city parks, trails, national and county parks in the form of matching grants.
Appreciation of Emery County Public Lands Administrator Ray Petersen was given for his countless hours of work and his historical record of all that the council and others have done to finally accomplish this major legislation.
Next, discussion was opened about scheduling PLC meetings at another time considering the public that cannot attend during the day. The comment was made that many of the agencies, such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and more, would have a hard time attending if meetings were not during their work hours. A motion was made to try some evening meetings for a number of times and see if the public attended. The first meeting in the evening will be on April 23 at 7 p.m. in the administration building in Castle Dale.
Chris Conrad, BLM, asked of the council “How does it work and where is the money?” He reported that his office will have to reallocate their priorities to follow the bill. The implementation will follow the president’s signing. Conrad also introduced a new GIS specialist, Mike Knight, who will be helping with the rerouting and restating of the roads in the area. Conrad then reported that travel management will be completed by November.
Emery County is seeking input from anyone who has used roads in and around the Wildhorse Mesa or Hidden Splendor Mine areas. This is to help with RS2477 classifications.
Mark Stilson, Utah State Water Engineer, reported a new water right has been filed on the Humbug. He also restated he is watching the secondary water metering bill at the state legislature.
Brian Torgersen from the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration reported that the Good Water Rim Trail lease has been finalized. He then began to explain the land trades between SITLA and the BLM outlined in the Public Lands Bill. He also reported an application that had been submitted to SITLA for a solar field on Cedar Mountain on 2,500 acres. Emery County Commissioner Kent Wilson remarked that the Association of Governments was against this consideration. The county will take action on this once a permit has been addressed to the county.
Daren Olsen, forest ranger, announced the Canyon Timber project of 33,000 acres in the Black and Reeder Canyons area. Sales will open this summer. He also reported that Natural Resources Conservation Service funds have become available to build debris basins above Joe’s Valley Reservoir and in Orangeville. The National Environmental Policy Act will be implemented on these critical catch basins.
Larry Johansen, acting Utah State Parks manager, reported that interviews have been done and a new manager should be announced this week. He also reported that grooming of the trails in the canyons is being completed. Utah State Parks employees are also evaluating the Goblin Valley expansion. Johansen concluded by reporting campers at Huntington North and that the reservoir is 97% full.
Representing the Washington Delegation, Larry Ellertson from Curtis’ office applauded the council for the accomplishment of the Lands Bill. He said that the entire country will be impacted by the passage of the bill. He reminded that what has been open to the public before will still be open to the public. Whatever was legal use will still be legal use. It is a preservation for future generations. He also reported that Congressman Curtis will be in the area on March 20 for the celebration of the passing of the Lands Bill.