Letter to the Editor: Emery County’s Position Clarified on Land Use Bill


Dear Editor,

I appreciate ETV News posting articles and letters I’ve submitted. The intent has been to clarify Emery County’s position and intent on the complex process of passing federal legislation. There is currently an abundance of misinformation and “the sky is falling” emotionalism being expressed. Take deep breath. Emery County’s position has not changed from what it was ten years ago: The Emery County Land Use Bill is an effort to pro-actively establish public land and natural resource management in the best interest of Emery County. Joan Powell’s accusation that Emery County has abandoned that position is false. Her further charge that the County simply wants to pass a bill is nonsense.

Mrs. Powell’s opinion is that ten years worth of work on this legislation is a “fool’s errand” and a ”huge mistake.” That’s not what stakeholders (mostly Emery County residents) felt when the Public Lands Council (PLC) hosted public scoping meetings in 2009. The desire of Emery County residents and other stakeholders was to: 1. Protect current resource use, and 2. Minimize the likelihood of a national monument (or similar) designation. Although the text of the proposed legislation has taken various forms over ten years, the County has never wavered in its commitment to these guiding principles. It has not been easy.

Joan says that her research revealed that a planning process is required regarding motorized recreation in both our legislation and Bear’s Ears National Monument. That’s not news. For better or worse, whether you like it or hate it, the Travel Planning process is reality. Travel Management happens on BLM multiple use lands, on National Forests, in recreation areas, in National Monuments. It is the methodology by which motorized trails are vetted. And what continually gets lost in all the hyperbole and drama, is the fact that a court ordered Travel Management review will ultimately have more effect on motorized trails in the Swell than even congressional legislation. And…..don’t miss this….the settlement agreement from SUWA vs. DOI* was cosigned by motorized recreation organizations along with SUWA and Earthjustice.

Joan confuses me by on one hand agreeing that our legislation should protect us from National Monument designation but then stating that it would be no better than a monument anyway and won’t prevent a future monument in the surrounding area. I don’t have a crystal ball, maybe Joan has, but the fact is that of two areas in Utah which have been on lists for monument designation, Bear’s Ears is designated, the San Rafael Swell is not. So far, we’re one hundred percent effective in avoiding monument designation! It’s pretty clear to those who have been aware and watching, that the San Rafael Swell was not selected for designation because there was a legitimate process in place to accommodate some sensible conservation. Make no mistake. The Commissioners have the ability to not continue with this bill at any time, should they be convinced that it is not in the best interest of the County to continue. But what sense would there be in bailing now?

Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson invited Congressman Curtis, Ron Dean from Senator Hatch’s office and Emery representatives to the meeting in Lindon last week. It was refreshing. There were many excellent questions about our bill. There was honest exchange of information. Congressman Curtis communicated very clearly the urgency to create management certainty legislatively. Again, the option of doing nothing is not in Emery County’s best interest. Nearly everyone I spoke with following the meeting had a follow-up question or two and expressed appreciation for Emery County’s desire to manage the resource and “protect what we have.”

Joan says “Nobody (Emery County) wanted to listen to WHAT we wanted” when referring to a PLC work meeting. On that occasion, one of the Commissioners explained that the meeting dealt with topics and material  that was best discussed in a closed meeting. He also said he understood the group had concerns and welcomed a spokesman for them to take the floor for a few minutes and share their main concerns, which he welcomed. I have since met with some of these people, as have commissioners, and listened to them. The ten proposed amendments to the bill were shared with us as well as Curtis and Hatch staff members. When it was explained that some of the amendments, if included, would kill the bill the list was reduced to four. (Some of the proposed amendments had been included in a prior version of our bill and Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative and, frankly, was part of the reason PLI failed).

Joan says she been betrayed by Emery County elected officials and the Public Lands Council. I can’t see how that can be, given the commitment to the two objectives stated above: 1. Protect current resource use and, 2. Minimize the likelihood of a national monument (or similar) designation. Emery County, Congressman Curtis and Senator Hatch continue to explore better language for the bill, but are convinced that the existing roads and trails will be more secure following passage of the bill than if we don’t. Similarly, it’s naïve and unwise to consider abandoning this legislation. If I had a crystal ball, I think it would say that a future administration, whether 2 or 20 years from now will pounce on a monument designation for the Swell.

*Settlement Agreement in Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, et. al. v. Dept. of the Interior et. al. U.S. District Court (D Utah) Consolidated Case  No. 2:12- cv-257 DAK US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit Nos. 15-4151, 15-4152, 15-4153, 15-4155, 15-4158. (this agreement requires Travel Management planning in significant areas of Price, Richfield, Vernal, Moab and Kanab BLM Field Offices.

Ray Petersen
Emery County

ETV 10 News invites you to share your opinions with its readers. Letters to the editor should include your full name, address and phone number. Only your name and the city you live in will be published. We do not publish anonymous letters. Letters can be emailed to sdraper@emerytelcom.com or mailed to ETV 10 News, 625 E 100 N, Price, UT 84501.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of ETV 10 News or Emery Telcom.

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