Wild Horses, Bison and Forest Plan: Hot Topics For Public Lands Discussion

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By Julie Johansen

Emery County Public Lands committee members addressed hot topics at their November meeting on Tuesday morning, including the large number of wild horses on the desert, the bison hunts in Range Creek and the Forest Service plan.

Following Dana Truman’s remarks about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) NEPA projects at Williams and Lila Canyon, Chalk Hill and the Dingell implications, council member Leon McElprang questioned her about illegal hauling of water to the wild horses on the desert. He claimed that he and another permittee made calls to the State Director of the BLM and were disregarded and even treated very inappropriately. McElprang also said that his cattle are now on the desert and he will have to haul enough water for over 50 horses as well.

Truman reported that she would review these situations and respond quickly to the council. Emery County Commissioner Wilson also requested that this information be forwarded to the commission. Other questions to the BLM were about the reported route closures near Copper Globe and Link Flat. Truman said she will also look into this as she was not aware of these actions.

Dana Dean with Division of Oi, Gas and Mining reported transfers of permits from Rhino Resources to the co-op of Gentry Mining. The new corporation of Murray Inc. also has requested transfers. Murray Inc. didn’t drop any Utah assets, Dean reported. In addition, Skyline Mine has requested a permit to drill a well similar to the present JC Wells. This well would drain the water and reduce the pressure under where they are currently mining and empty into Electric Lake. Dean also spoke about legislation introduced by Senator David Hinkins that would reduce the acreage needed for a mine application, making it possible for smaller companies to get started in the mining business.

Chris Wood, Division of Wildlife Resources, addressed the bison hunt in the Range Creek Area. He said that the way the hunt has been conducted was according to a committee recommendation after the group collaborated for a couple of years. The biggest issue is getting the tribal council to reduce the number of bison in that area that migrate from the tribal lands to Range Creek.

Issuing permits began in August and about 188 permits were issued. To Wood’s knowledge, about 40 have been harvested, with is about a 20% harvest rate. This has also been a great opportunity for private land owners in the area to sell permits on their land, he said. It is reported that five head have been taken from the private land permits. Flights in and access through Desolation Canyon on the river have also taken hunters to their prey. Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk requested that the river permits be issued with caution as the river is at a dangerously low level and the Sand Wash Ranger Station is not staffed at this time.

Bryan Torgerson, School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, reported that they are beginning to work on the land exchanges required by the Dingell Act. He also said that fall land auctions will be online this year, but there are no parcels available in Emery County in this auction. They are also considering extending the Green River Industrial Lands lease with Emery County and including some parcels of land designated in the Dingell Act to be included in this lease. He also noted a helium lease west of Green River and a lease near Fremont Junction to Emery Telcom for fiber optics.

Daren Olsen, Forest Ranger, began by speaking about the logging near Boulger Reservoir and on Trail Spring Ridge. He also reported a mahogany reforestation on South Horn Mountain. Christmas tree permits are also being sold at Castle Valley Supply in Huntington and Main Street Market in Ferron. Eight hundred tags have already been sold but there are tags remaining. Olsen noted that the summer non-fire job application deadline is Nov. 8.

Once Ranger Olsen mentioned the work progressing on the forest plan, there were many comments and opinions. Council member McElprang reported the work of a committee for months that had been presented to the Forest Service previously that outlined issues for the grazers, but these seem to behave been left off the draft plans. He then turned the time over to Michael Ralphs, retired Utah State University Rangeland Professor. Ralphs pointed out three critical input points that need to be included in the plan. He said these are economic impact, guidelines for utilization and flexibility. A motion was made for the board to address a letter of support for these issues to be sent to the Forest Service. Further discussion also included a meeting of all concerned individuals on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m.

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