County to execute revised master plan
A few weeks ago, the county commission approved a revision of Carbon County's master plan on public lands and resources pending legal review.
The legal review has been completed and the Carbon County Commission chairman will sign a resolution putting the revision into effect.
"This is a plan we had a lot of input into," noted Dave Levanger, the county's planning and zoning director. "We had an ad hoc committee that worked very hard on this and helped us to make some significant changes."
Levanger headed up the process of revising the original document that was put into effect in October 1997.
The idea for the latest revision was brought to light when a court case involving Uintah County and the United States Bureau of Land Management revealed that local governments need to be proactive in structuring master plans as the guideline applies to public lands.
The court ruled against the BLM in the suit. The federal agency wanted to release wild horses into an area objected to by Uintah County and the Ute Indian Tribe.
In the decision, the court stated that "it is important that the land and the resource management plans effectively protect the interests of all of the involved parties."
"Therefore it is important that all parties conform with the established plan and make changes only through the formal amendment process," stated the court.
Following the court's decision, many counties started to review local master plans pertaining to public lands.
Carbon was one of the local governments that decided to revise the county's existing master plan.
Carbon's new plan includes revisions, sometimes voiced in strong language, designed to keep federal and state agencies from impinging on the county's wishes.
Since nearly 49 percent of the land in Carbon County is federal public land, it was felt by officials this was a specific priority.
Important changes in the new plan include various passages that reinforce the county's philosophy.
A section on encouraging no net loss of private lands, thereby reducing the county's tax base spells out some of what the county can do to help land owners.
The section states that "Carbon County's policy is to encourage private landowners through contract negotiations, tax incentives and other voluntary means to make decisions regarding land transactions in such a way as to prevent the net loss of private lands in the county..."
The concern here is that through various private and public agencies, private landowners may be tempted to sell land to the federal government.
The plans spells out that "in furtherance of this policy, the county will encourage private landowners through... voluntary means to sell land to governments only on (the) condition that (1) those governments make other public lands and water rights in Carbon County available for private acquisition in an equal amount and value, and (2) the county finds that such a sale is in the best interests of local citizens.
Another passage was changed in a section on wild and scenic rivers, an area where public officials worry about the action that the federal government could take concerning future land development and even current use.
The county "opposes the usurpation of authority by the BLM and Forest Service to apply interim so-called 'protective' management measures on proposed wild and scenic river segments."
"No such authority exists to manage those segments any other way than pursuant to the FLPMA (Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976) multiple-use mandate, unless and until such segments have actually been designated by Congress for addition to the national wild and scenic river system," maintains the revised master plan
"The county also opposes the ludicrous interpretation by some in the BLM and Forest Service who would apply the Wild and Scenic River Act to segments that are nothing more than dry or partially dry washes," adds the document.
In the timber and forest product harvesting portion of the plan, the county has provided for the thinning of forests to prevent the kinds of fires that have ravaged Arizona and southern California during the last couple of years.
"Woodlands that are periodically thinned and otherwise managed to prevent or reduce insect infestation and the ravaging effects of fire, are the healthiest, most productive, and most conducive to all interests ranging from recreation to timber harvesting," states the county's revised master plan.
The item was included due to the fact that in many areas of the country environmental suits have been filed against various government agencies trying to prevent the entities from cleaning up forest floors to prevent wildfires, according to the Carbon commissioners.
Under the recreation and tourism section, the plan spells out the county's policy against other government agencies taking power without actually having legal authority.
"Carbon County is determined to guard, uphold and demand compliance with the multiple-use mandate and all that it stands for," including "mineral extraction, grazing and other uses co-exist side-by-side with recreation values and that the BLM and U.S. Forest Service's so-called recreation values, interests and goals not be employed as an excuse to forge de-facto wilderness policies on public lands without congressional approval," indicates the revised master plan.
In the grazing permits and rights area of the document, the county "adamantly opposes grazing buy outs and other maneuvers, whether for recreation, wilderness values, or otherwise which cause, encourage, result in or bring about the retirement, non-use, or other effective reduction of" livestock grazing.
In the area of law enforcement, there has been confusion about what agency is the governing force on public property.
The revised master plan specifies that the county sheriff "derives primary jurisdiction and authority over law enforcement matters in Carbon County by virtue of the Utah Constitution, state ordinance, county ordinance and the voters. It is in the best interest of Carbon County and its citizens that the county sheriff asset this authority on all Carbon County lands, public or otherwise..."
"The sheriff must be notified of all law enforcement actions on federal public land in the county," adds the revised master plan.
Regarding conservation easements, the revised master plan takes a strong stand on how the matters should be handled within Carbon County's jurisdiction.
"Although conservation easements begin innocently enough ...," the intention can be changed and "they can become a tool of special interest groups, some politicians, social engineers and well-meaning but unknowing bureaucrats to erode private property rights," indicates the county
In the text of the plan, the county maintains that "conservation easements should not extend beyond the life of the grantor."
Federal and state agencies will face a requirement that the "county be notified of potential sales of conservation easements on private land in Carbon County," cautions the revised master plan.
The guideline also contains a provision specifying that the county commissioners will try to speak and work with people who are considering putting the land into some type of conservation easement.
Discussing the matter with residents prior to the placement of land into conservation easements will give the county the chance to explain the impacts and regulations governing the designations, according to Carbon lawmakers.