Public Lands Council Busy Preparing Emery County’s Public Lands Bill

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By Julie Johansen

The Emery County Public Lands Council hosted a work meeting prior to the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Council members are putting the final touches on the Emery County Public Lands Bill.

Much time was spent studying maps of the area included in this legislation. Another work meeting is scheduled before the next regular meeting on April 4. Randy Johnson reported that work is progressing with Senator Hatch’s office to secure support for the bill when it is ready to present. Everyone is just waiting to see what the new Washington administration will or won’t do with Bears Ears Monument. Mike Stohl from Senator Chaffetz’s office also reports that they too are waiting to see what changes will happen in national government.

Ron Bean, representing Senator Hatch‘s office, reported that the new Congress will reintroduce legislation concerning grazing in the Grand Staircase, a grazing cooperative agreement, a state fracking bill and an ozone bill. All these bills could have impact on Emery County. He was also anxious to get the endorsement of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Bean also has favorable reports on the new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. He feels these appointments will be tools for economic growth in rural Utah.

Brian Hawthorne, an independent, then presented a review of the proposed settlement agreement between SUWA and the Department of the Interior. He made several recommendations to the council as the settlement has yet to be approved by the court. One of these was to prioritize and introduce the Emery County Public Lands bill. He thanked the council for listening to his concerns and called for action.

Various agencies then reported, starting with Jake Palma from the BLM. He emphasized that they are happy to work with the county and were glad to have Ray Petersen sit with them to go over route evaluations. The BLM is working closely with the county and state on the San Rafael Swell and Nine Mile travel routes. The Price River Road and Iron Wash Allotment areas are also being worked on. The Joe’s Valley Bouldering Environmental Analysis has been completed and sent to the Forest Service for review. He also reported that an environmental analysis will be completed on oil and gas leases in 2017. In August, a wild horse gather will attempt to reduce the 180 down to 100 in the Muddy Creek area. Grazing permit renewals for Hiawatha, Wattis, and Pinnacle Bench are being considered.

Mark Stilson spoke for the division of water rights. He stated that permits have been issued by DOGMA to mine adjacent to Electric Lake and Bolger Reservoir. With only three required measurements per year it is difficult to show the impact of mines on water storage.

The DWR representative, John Stephan, spoke about the quagga muscle problems and their attempts to keep them from spreading to other Utah waters. He announced a turkey clinic on March 17 and a predator clinic on March 31.

Brian Torgerson from SITLA said they are not involved in the legislation process and only try to trade outlands that are encumbered.

Daren Olsen from the Forest Service said the gates are still open and will remain until the snow begins to melt. The Forest Service Facebook page will keep everyone updated. He also announced that they are planning on hiring six or eight youth for summer work. Anyone interested should contact their respective schools to apply. These positions will be randomly selected.

State Parks was unable to attend but reported a Fat Tire Bike Festival at Goblin Valley on March 25, which will offer free camping. Millsite and Huntington North campgrounds are open. Snowmobiling trails are still being groomed as new snow has fallen in the last couple of days.

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