Public Lands Council Gears Up for Emery County Public Lands Bill

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By Julie Johansen

The Emery County Public Lands Council welcomed a new member to the council on Tuesday morning. Randall Stilson had actually served previously and was welcomed back. Elections for the new year were conducted and Chair Rod Player and Vice Chair Edward Geary were retained as officers. Chairman Player then asked council members to take responsibility in different areas of public lands concern.

Emery County seems to be in a radar shadow and discussion continued as to how to overcome this disadvantage. It was stated that an addition of radar for weather prediction would be helpful for agriculture purposes and also for search and rescue and emergency management systems in the county.

Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk and council members concurred and Public Lands Administrator Ray Petersen was asked to research this further and write a letter to the commissioners requesting this service.

Randy Johnson and Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s Utah District Director Wade Garrett recently returned from Washington D.C. and reported they had contacted all of Utah’s congressional delegation and felt confident that they will support the Emery County Public Lands bill that the council has spent some 20 years preparing for legislation. They are waiting to see if President Trump and his administration will take any action on the recent designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. They are also considering how to get senate passage following the approval of the house. Chairman Player asked that all the members of council study the proposed bill and maps, then come to a work meeting an hour early next month on March 7 prepared to make any small changes that the council feels necessary. He reminded them that they are not reinventing the wheel but merely “perfecting the craft.”

Petersen then explained the litigation that SUWA has instigated against the Range Management Plans in five of the BLM districts in the state. This lawsuit would require that travel routes in the San Rafael Desert once again be combed with a fine tooth comb and more closely scrutinized. The council feels that this has been done sufficiently in Emery County.

Agency reports followed this discussion and Jake Palma from the BLM told of the many changes in the Price Field Office, both in personnel as well as reconstruction of the office building. He introduced new staff members Dana Truman, Dan Dull and Michael Knight. Michael Leschin said they are working on getting improvements at Fossil Point south of Green River with hopes of educating the public as to what is there.

Truman reported the San Rafael River restoration project, including the burning of tamarisk piles, flood damage control, monitoring invasion of noxious plants, beetle kill and replanting with various types of trees and brush to re-vegetate the river bottom.

The DWR reported 100% success in the pronghorn hunt on the north San Rafael Desert. Thirty-nine tags were issued and 39 pronghorns were harvested. The representative announced a predator clinic on March 17 that will address how to hunt coyotes. He reminded of the statewide ban on shed hunting in order to preserve wildlife struggles in this heavier winter. There are six openings on the Southeastern Utah RAC Council and applications are open until March 15.

Brian Torgerson from SITLA stated that the board would make policy on land exchanges from within the monuments to areas outside and that board has cattlemen, wool growers and Farm Bureau members who serve for 15 year terms. There will be another public auction of SITLA lands on May 24.

Kevin Albrecht from the Forest Service reported that they will be widening 26 trails on the Manti-La Sal  Forest to 60” from the original 50”. Sixty inches is the size of their trail cat, so this is the maximum width they can maintain. These trails will be trails with no infrastructure and will be implemented this year. The seasonal wildlife gates have been closed. The Joe’s Valley Pavilion comment period is now open and comments are welcomed.

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