Letter to the editor: The good deals
It was very nice for Scott Groene, executive director of SUWA to once again give us a reminder about the lies and half truths he represents.
Groene mentioned what a great deal it was when the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) was created and how the state trust lands were traded out. He mentioned that Emery County received land where the Cottonwood tract coal lease are located. Groene failed to mention how many coal tracts that will never be developed because of the creation of the GSENM. The Cottonwood tract is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the coal deposits that are now completely off limits. Groene forgot to mention that the GSENM killed the Smoky Hollow Coal Mine that was being developed by Andalex. That mine would have provided millions of tons of easily extracted coal in addition to hundreds of good paying jobs for the people of the area.
With the creation of the GSENM, numerous sections of State Institutional Trust Land (SITLA) were locked up, thus rendering them useless and unable to generate money for Utah's public schools. Groene correctly states that these SITLA sections were traded out in a deal between the State of Utah and BLM. What he did not mention is that for every three state sections located within the monument, the State of Utah only received one section in return. So, it was a three for one deal at the expense of the children of Utah. SITLA had no choice but to agree with the exchange because they were strong-armed by the creation of the Grand Staircase National monument. I would ask if that is the sort of "common ground" that Groene claims, "there is room for"?
Neither SUWA, nor Mr. Groene has the best interest of Emery County or the State of Utah in mind. This became evident when SUWA filed a lawsuit to stop the oil leases. It is also evident that SUWA put pressure on the Obama administration to rescind these leases, which in turn will cost the school children of Utah approximately $3.5 million. This decision also sanitized 37,000 acres of school trust land that can't be developed for natural resource extraction.
If wilderness is designated, Mr. Groene claims that livestock grazing, stock ponds and fences can still exist. What he failed to mention is that no mechanical, nor motorized means will be allowed in a wilderness area to repair fences or stock ponds. There will not be any new development of fences, springs, watering troughs or additional ponds. Corrals located with the wilderness area will no longer be accessible to livestock trailers. In fact it will be illegal to use a wheelbarrow to maintain a stock pond or watering trough in a wilderness area. It will be illegal to use a chain saw in a wilderness area. Wilderness designation not only eliminates motorized travel, but it eliminates all "mechanized" and yes this includes mountain bikes.
It is more than obvious why grazing permittees of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument voluntarily sold out to the Grand Canyon Trust. Have we forgotten what happened in 1992 with the incident involving a stray cow in Chimney Canyon and what resulted from the environmental pressure that was placed on the BLM from an environmental group because this animal was in a WSA?
Groene mentions that hunting and fishing can still take place. I would ask Groene when was that last time he went fishing on the San Rafael Swell? Hunters represent a small portion of the recreational users on the San Rafael Swell. If wilderness is created, motorized access to hunting locations will be closed. Hunters will have to walk or ride a horse on existing roads and trails that are no longer open to motorized use because of a wilderness designation.
Wilderness means no motorized and no mechanized vehicles are allowed. Every road within the designated wilderness area will be closed to both motorized and mechanical access, including mountain bikes. This means that hundreds of miles of roads will be closed. Hundreds of dispersed camping sites will no longer be accessible.
The picture is much bigger than OHVs. It involves every person who drives or operates any type of motorized or mechanized vehicle.
Groene mentioned that the creation of wilderness does not need to be a negative impact. What about the Lila Canyon Coal Mine? This mine borders a WSA. SUWA filed several protests and lawsuits and the litigation substantially delayed the development of this mine for seven years. The Lila Canyon Mine is located in Emery County and would/will provide jobs and income for the county. Can you imagine if this WSA would have been designated wilderness?
We have given up enough over the last 20 years in terms of the creation and management of the current WSAs. How many WSAs are there on the San Rafael Swell that were "created"? Case in point would be Old Woman Wash/Canyon. Old Woman has two constructed roads, a mine and a drill pipe sticking out of the ground. Darris Ekker built one of the roads in 1970 with a bulldozer so he could access a copper deposit. Why is this a WSA? Because, it was "created". How much wilderness are SUWA and Groene going to "create" from land that technically does not qualify? As per SUWA's latest Red Rock Wilderness bill, the answer is over nine million acres of BLM land in Utah.
When wilderness is created, it gives congress the right to decide how much water should be flowing through these areas. Where does this water come from? It comes from the streams and rivers that feed each community in Emery County. It is the same water that we depend upon for drinking and irrigation.
Groene talked about the "giving and taking" process that was involved in the Washington County Bill. SUWA acknowledges that the "improved" Washington County bill removed provisions that "gave away thousands of acres of public land rights away for water development."
Thanks Groene for reminding us of all of the wonderful and good deals you and SUWA are offering to the citizens of Emery County and the State of Utah.
Oh yeah, happy fishing.