What Would it Take to Open a Closed Forest Service Road?


By Julie Johansen

Chairman Rod Player opened the March meeting for the Emery County Public Lands Council by reading a letter from the Office of Surface Mining and the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining. The annual letter asked for criteria from the lands committee to be used to improve the effectiveness of their evaluation process.

Council member replies included the importance and desire to establish historical markers at mine sites. Their plea was to not erase all historical evidence of the mines and wells. It was decided that a letter with that reply will be written and then presented to the Emery County Commission for approval, denial or amendment before being mailed.

Another letter from Colorado College expressed the role of environmental issues in the West. Random people on the voter rolls had been polled and percentages were calculated.

Randall Stilson then addressed the council, asking for assistance or at least an explanation why Olsen Canyon Trail was closed and never reopened. He reported that it had been closed temporarily years ago but has remained closed. He reported that his family would like to have it opened, then adopt it and keep it open.

Forest Ranger Daren Olsen gave a history of Olsen Canyon, showing photos from as early as 1976 and continuing through 2008 that showed no road or trail though the canyon. He stated, ”There seemed to be a short beginning with a hairpin turn but doesn’t continue through the canyon or up on Olsen Bench.”

In 2008, barriers were placed on the trail to stop illegal use in the Canyon. ”There are a lot of other trails for access in the area and if every request for a road was answered, there would be roads everywhere,” Olsen said. “It would require a NEPA process to consider a road.”

Others at the meeting reported driving there in previous years to access sheep camps and camping.

Agency reports then began with Kyle Beagley of the Bureau of Land Management reporting first. He reported an 80-acre plot of land east of Castle Dale is being offered for sale. He also said that Jurassic National Monument will open on March 30 and be open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. He stated that park rangers will start in a couple of weeks as well as law enforcement officers.

Beagley was also asked about the enlargement of the critical habitat for Sage Grouse being proposed. He replied that it could be larger, smaller or remain as it is. Kevin Albrecht with the Forest Service pointed out that there are three areas of habitat for Sage Grouse in Emery County, including Horn Mountain, Wildcat and Scofield, but the proposal to join the three is not preferred.

Marc Stilson, Utah State Water Engineer, then spoke to the council about three bills from recent legislation affecting water use. One bill would affect the metering of secondary water uses in rural Utah. Another dealt with an emergency $5 million loan fund giving compensation to agriculture users for municipality use. The other bill presented by Senator David Hinkins would allow farmers to lease their water downstream with the Colorado River Compact.

Next, Dal Gray with the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining reported the sale of Conoco Phillips to Urban Energy. He added that Urban Energy seems to be aggressive in their work.

Brian Torgersen, School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, then reminded the group that they still have two parcels of land for sale, one west of Green River and the other at Straight Hollow. He then spoke about a possible solar farm near Cedar Mountain. The lands council voiced dislike for this and their concern at the placement.

Next, Forest Ranger Daren Olsen said the forest plan would be completed in about 90 days. Timber sales are available for the Canyons Project totaling about 6,000 acres. They have been conducting range meetings with permittees outlining their grazing plans for summer. Meanwhile, pile burnings have been almost completed.

To conclude, Jim Wells, Goblin Valley State Park Ranger, reported that interviews for manager positions for Huntington, Millsite and Scofield State Parks are beginning. However, activities at Green River Park are slow right now.

scroll to top