Public Lands Needs Expressed to Emery Lands Council


By Julie Johansen

Vice Chairman Ray Petersen called the Emery County Public Lands Council meeting to order on Tuesday. He was acting in the absence of Chairman Rod Player. He began by reading the mission statement of the council from the agenda. He reminded the council and audience that the council was formed almost three decades ago to address public lands issues in Emery County.

Petersen also spoke about the need to amend and update the Emery County General Plan to comply with new state statues as well as recent legislation such as the Dingell Act. The general plan serves a guiding document for the county.

Chairman Petersen then invited Butch Jensen to address the council about the impacts of bison on his ranching properties at Range Creek, Rock Creek and the Tavaputs. Jensen stated that this issue has been growing for the last 12 to 14 years as the bison have migrated off the tribal lands into other areas. He reported that areas have been absolutely decimated by their grazing, but his number one concern was the possibility of spreading brucellosis to his herd of cattle. His fear was that this could completely wipe out his operation.

Several meetings with government agencies have happened to no avail, Jensen said. He also explained that Representative Christine Watkins tried to present a bill to keep the bison on the tribal lands, though the bill essentially died. He expressed extreme frustration with the situation and warned that the bison herd will continue to expand to the Cisco Junction area on I-70 and could move as far as Highway 6.

Chris Wood, Division of Wildlife Resources, told of the various attempts the agencies have made to help with the situation, including fencing, allowing the tribes to herd the buffalo back with helicopter and hiring a rifleman to harvest the bison when leaving tribal lands. A motion was made for the council to write a letter to the state agencies attempting to aid Jensen family in this problem.

Ryan Wilson with Wolverine Mining then spoke to the council about the Fossil Rock Mine (formerly the Trail Mountain Mine) up Cottonwood Canyon. Wolverine purchased the mine in 2015 with no definite plans of when to open. They have a Division of Oil, Gas and Mining permit to do rehabilitation at the mine site, following a couple of floods that have happened in the area. They are waiting on approval and financing while continuing to work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service. The council spoke to him about the traffic of both the bouldering community with campgrounds and livestock trails through the canyon.

The acting field manager for the BLM, Dana Truman, addressed the council next. She spoke about the transition of field manager positions within the BLM, stating that they are trading every 120 days. The focus of work with the BLM in the Price office has been preparing for the summer season and staffing changes. They are excited to have a new recreational specialists coming soon and expect to have more river runs with higher water this year.

Karen Madsen, a field inspector for Department of Oil Gas and Mining, then gave an update on the activities at Lila Canyon Mine. She said the fire is out and rescue crews are underground completing rehab work in the mining areas. They are building permanent seals and pumping nitrogen into the fire area, and they have installed water monitoring units. Bronco Mine has also installed these same units. She concluded by stating that Deer Creek Mine is in the final reclamation progress.

“No antler gathering from now until late April,” was the big news from Chris Wood, Division of Wildlife Resources. This is to take any additional stress of the elk and deer who are already experiencing harsh conditions with the snow.

Wood also reported having moved some bothersome turkeys from residences in Emery County. These birds were transported to the lower San Rafael and Price River area. Deer numbers seem to be up this year, even with the large amount of snow. When questioned about the beaver on the San Rafael River damaging the large cottonwood tree, he responded that it is actually a good thing as it brings about new growth.

Brian Torgersen of the Southeast Office of the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration then reported that land exchanges from the Dingell Act are being appraised and should be complete by midsummer. They are also offering two parcels of land for sale, including one at Straight Hollow and another west of the Green River Industrial Park. They are working with other agencies to increase the parking at the trailhead of Sego Canyon as it has been prohibitive in the past.

Forest Ranger Daren Olsen also spoke about enlarging parking sites on the northeast of Miller Flat Road and Highway 31. Other sites with changes are Gooseberry Reservoir and the west side of Joe’s Valley reservoir. He then reported that meetings with livestock operators have started as they consider the coming grazing seasons. Timber sales and work are continuing in the Reeder Canyon area and they will continue to sale timber north from Reeders to the Potters Pond area.

Next, Goblin Valley Park Ranger Jim Wells noted that some of the parks are closed due to the unavailability of propane and that the ice at Huntington North is unsafe. Continuing, he said that the Green River campground expansion is proceeding, though the one at Goblin Valley is suspended because of financing. He next explained that large crowds are expected during fall break because of the eclipse on Oct. 14, which will be seen in Emery County.

Addie Healy with the Department of Agriculture announced a Crop School at USU Eastern on Feb. 8, and a local groups meeting in Green River on Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. This meeting will help determine natural resource needs for Carbon and Emery counties and where the Natural Resources Conservation Service funds are needed.

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