Working out a plan for Range Creek
A planning meeting to establish an interim plan for the habitat management of Range Creek was held recently. This planning meeting was conducted by Chris Colt who is the habitat region manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources. Other interested parties from various entities involved in writing the interim plan were in attendance.
Mike King who is the academic vice president of the College of Eastern Utah said they are interested in Range Creek for its use as an educational tool for students. Currently a course on archaeological field technique is being taught by Jerry Spangler who is working on site with a group of students and there are plans to do more of those types of courses.
Fish and wildlife interests, watershed and agricultural interests, archaeologist, law enforcement, BLM representatives and Emery County commissioners, Gary Kofford and Drew Sitterud and public lands director, Ray Petersen were all present at the meeting.
All parties were gathered to work on the interim plan. Colt began the discussion by identifying the goals involved with the help of the participants. An August 18 deadline is being worked towards for the completion of the interim plan so Gov. Olene Walker can present the plan to the legislators when a special session of the legislature convenes in late August or early September.
The interim plan will help identify needs for funding and other needs with which the legislature can help. A historical chronology of the ranch is also being prepared to present to the legislature to give them some background information on Range Creek. Steve Gerber, state historian is working on the history.
Colt said the planning would involve goals, issues and discussion on conflicting issues; and outlining what is permitted and what is not within the conservation easement. Also, the plan will establish basic parameters to abide by in accordance with the conservation easements.
Goals outlined include protecting the conservation values and maintaining access; recreational use and enhanced wildlife habitat values; maintain historical and archaeological values.
Dennis Willis, BLM outdoor recreation planner said it is important for Range Creek to be taken off the 303D list which is an EPA list of waters not meeting water standards. Range Creek is too warm for its use classification and wider than it should be.
Jurisdictional issues were also raised in making sure that an interim plan is enforceable. Commissioner Sitterud said Emery County should be named in enforcement and involved in the economic values. Range Creek itself could create cash flow through entrepreneurial ventures. The state legislature has appropriated $200,000 each year for the maintenance of Range Creek. This was done before the new special interest in the area. The possibility of setting up a non-profit foundation which could receive private donations for Range Creek was also discussed. Colt emphasized that the interim plan should coordinate with the other land owners and the BLM.
The water rights were also discussed and two CFS is the amount of water that can legally be used. Waldo Wilcox used more than that in accordance with an agreement with Kaiser Mine. Willis said that Waldo retains the mineral rights on the property and that the first order of business should be to obtain (purchase) those rights.
The goals were defined as being:
Protect and enhance conservation values as defined in conservation easement, including, wildlife, riparian, watershed and water quality.
Provide managed public access, including hunting, fishing, recreation, and public education.
Preserve historic and archeological values.
Protect other private and public landowner interests.
Incorporate this management plan in the management of the larger Range Creek drainage working with BLM, State of Utah, private landowners and Emery/Carbon counties and others.
The landowners on the south end want trespassing tickets given to those people illegally entering their land. It was discussed that trespassing tickets cannot legally be given if the land is not posted.
According to Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon if the property is fenced and posted it is clearly private property and should not be crossed, but that road has been used forever. "We would not initiate tickets, but if the landowner signed the ticket as the complainant then he would then become a witness in justice court and prosecution could take place in those instances," said Guymon.
Enforcement will be the responsibility of the Emery County Sheriff's Office with the DWR and BLM working as partners. Enforcement would include patrol, theft of artifacts, wildlife and security.
Tourism would be based on the carrying capacity of the ranch to be decided in the long-term management.
Public safety includes risk management, sanitation, fires, communication and concessionaires.
Sanitation is an issue because the present sewer system at the ranch is inadequate for present needs.
The planning will continue at a meeting on Aug. 4 in order to have an interim plan ready to submit to Gov. Walker.