Photo courtesy of Emery County
By Julie Johansen
The Emery County Commissioners and the Public Lands Council stated over and over again at their December meeting on Tuesday morning that whatever recreation a person enjoys on the San Rafael Desert now, they will be able to continue to enjoy if the Emery County Land Bill passes. They also noted that any roads that are open now will still be open following the passage of the bill.
The council called a special work meeting regarding the bill on Nov. 30 to consider changes proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch’s office. These changes asked for more wilderness designation in the southern part of the county. Although hesitant to include more wilderness, the council unanimously decided that they would compromise with an additional 100,000 but are drawing the line there. As of Tuesday’s meeting, no response had come from Hatch’s office following the rebuttal. The council felt that this was better than the alternative if the land bill does not pass. The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) has also agreed to be a partner with the land bill, which was a huge step in aiding the process of getting the affirmative outcome and an economic boost to the county.
The meeting schedule for 2019 was then approved and it was noted that January’s meeting will on the second Tuesday rather than the usual first Tuesday. All other meetings will be on the scheduled first Tuesday of each month.
Few agency representatives were present but Dana Truman from the BLM reported that restrooms are now installed at Joe’s Valley and Sid’s Mountain. Geology signage is being placed on the routes to the Dinosaur Quarry. She reported that they accomplished two wild horse gathers, one at Range Creek and also on the Muddy Creek.
Jaydon Mead, also from the BLM, reported on public land sales. The decision on the Emery Town pipeline is expected soon as Emery is waiting for installation. The project on Big Bend in Huntington Canyon is almost finished, which will make more culinary water available for the North Emery Water Users.
Mark Stilson, Utah State Water Engineer, told the council about pending legislation that could have an effect on rural Utah Water users. He explained about water leasing and water banking, listing some pros and cons for water right holders. There are pilot programs in Idaho at this time. He also discussed in-stream flow and the possibility of metered secondary water.
The Division of Wildlife Resources explained that they are mapping and trying to determine the migration paths of mule deer. They also reported that the pheasant population in Southeastern Utah seems to be expanding. Some of this maybe because of the releases the DWR made in this area, five of which were in Emery County. Reportedly, 2,700 hundred roosters were harvested in Southeastern Utah. One bison has been harvested in the Range Creek area from the migration of the tribal herd and the special permits issued there. He also reported that fencing projects, to increase height, are happening in the same area.
Forest Service ranger Darin Olsen reported that no forest gates are currently closed but trail gates will be closed on Jan. 1. Christmas tree tags are going quickly and local fourth grade students have been given free tags. The boat ramp extension at Joe’s Valley Reservoir has began and will extend 50 feet, which is as far as it can be extended because of the grade of the lake. Following the ramp extension, the parking area will also be expanded. Consideration of changing the Miller’s Flat road across the Wilberg property in Joe’s Valley was also explained to the council.