By Ray Petersen
Most of the public dialogue surrounding the Emery County Public Land Use Management Act of 2019 has been dominated by two issues; wilderness designation and motorized recreation. These two elements are important to many people and much effort has been expended to clarify questions in regards to them. However, the act is about much more than these two issues.
This legislation also creates the Jurassic National Monument. What is the Cleveland/Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry will become a national monument. The 850-acre designation is intended to better highlight this world-renowned paleontological resource and spur greater visitation. Emery County believes this designation is in line with the intent of national monument status. The boundary, evaluated and recommended by livestock permittees, will not impact grazing in the area.
A little over 6,200 acres of federal land will be conveyed to Utah State Parks and Recreation for the purpose of expanding Goblin Valley State Park. The purpose of the conveyance is to provide for management of the dramatically-increased visitation to popular slot canyons and around the current state park. There is a great need to address heavy use, which continues to increase annually in the Crack Canyon area. The expansion will become a fee area. This new management by Utah State Parks is intended to be accomplished without compromising current resource use (specifically livestock grazing and hunting) in the area.
Three areas of federal land will be conveyed to Emery County for the purpose of public use:
- 320 acres encompassing the footprint of the Huntington Airport.
- Approximately 5 acres, which includes the Buckhorn information center.
- Approximately 5 acres, which will accommodate an Emery County Sheriff’s substation.
The act also lays the groundwork for a land exchange between the federal government and the School Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). Well over 100 thousand acres of SITLA properties, which are isolated within the designated wilderness areas and the recreation area, will eventually be exchanged for blocks of federal land elsewhere, allowing exploration and development of natural resources by SITLA. A portion of the revenue generated by the SITLA exchanges will be realized here in Emery County. The exchange will also extend the production life of coal mines in Emery County.
Also of benefit to coal production, a current WSA boundary will be realigned with the wilderness designation further away from a coal mine. This is a significant benefit in regards to continued mine operation.