Will the Emery County Public Lands Bill Protect Cultural and Historic Resources?


By Ray Petersen

In reference to cultural and historic resources, the Emery County General Plan (2016) states:

“Emery County has an abundance of historic and archeological resources as well as a strong cultural heritage. Emery County’s past, including dinosaurs, Native Americans, early settlers, and the mining industry, is proudly displayed and depicted in numerous museums and points of interest. Emery County will work with state and federal agencies to protect these resources.                                                          

Emery County views the preservation of its heritage and culture and its associated heritage and tourism industries, as a critical part of the planning process. The preservation of heritage and cultural resources, including access to the sites and settings of local history, has a great significance for the citizens of Emery County.”

The language in the legislation regarding the establishment of the NRA states:

(b) Purposes.—The purposes of the Conservation Area are to conserve, protect, and enhance the recreational, cultural, historical, educational, natural, scenic, and wildlife resources of the Recreation Area.

Because of the high value which the County places on our cultural and historic resources, it is fitting that the San Rafael Swell Western Heritage and Historic Mining National Recreation (formerly Conservation) Area was adopted. The hope is to follow up the legislation creating the NRA with interpretive infrastructure, assuring that the visiting public (which are already here) will enjoy a more full, educational and rewarding visit. The disconnect of more and more of the American public from the land contributes to much of high-tension, emotional conflicts in public land use and management. An understanding of past resource use and management may help the dialogue between diverse stakeholders.

In addition to preserving livestock grazing (one of the historic and cultural western heritage resources, the proposed bill also states:

(f) Cold War Sites.—The Secretary shall manage the Conservation Area in a manner that ensures the preservation of Cold War sites, including the Morrison Knudson tunnels, various Department of Defense projects sites, and hundreds of historical uranium mine sites in the Conservation Area.

Ironically, or perhaps tragically, all cultural and historic resources on federally administrated land are currently protected by The Antiquities Act. This is the same Act used to created Escalante/Grand Staircase and Bear’s Ears National Monuments.


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