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DWR discusses wildlife plan with county officials

Sun Advocate reporter

Two plans concerning habitat management and the intent to acquire right-of-way easements were submitted to the Carbon County Commission at its Feb. 17 meeting by a representative of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). The areas discussed were Cold Springs and Lower Fish Creek regions, both of which are vitally important to hunters, fisherman and wildlife advocacy organizations.

State law mandates that the DWR submit these habitat enhancement ideas to county commissions for discussion before possible ratification. DWR representative Bill Bates spoke before the panel and explained his agency's point of view on the land use matter.

Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in the Southeastern Region provide habitat for numerous game and non-game species. Many of these WMAs are in close proximity to communities throughout southeastern Utah. These areas provide recreation opportunities, including hunting, fishing, bird watching, wildlife viewing, etc., for DWR's constituents.

Associated with many of these properties are valuable water rights, which need to be used and improved upon. Water rights are exercised on many of the properties through active farming and irrigation. Farming, watering, and maintaining these fields provide forage for numerous species on the WMAs.

The Cold Springs property is located near Bruin Point above the towns of East Carbon and Sunnyside. The property was acquired through a trade with the Preston Nutter Ranch, owned by the Hunt Oil Company. The DWR traded property located on Buckskin Ridge on the Tavaputs Plateau for the parcel in the upper Cold Springs drainage. The Buckskin property was part of the land purchase involving the sale of the former Waldo Wilcox ranch to the Division of Wildlife Resources in 2002.

According to the DWR Web site, the Buckskin property had a great deal of wildlife value, the location of the parcel made it nearly inaccessible to the public due to surrounding private lands. Trading the Buckskin property to the Nutter Ranch in exchange for the Cold Springs property has resulted in the DWR obtaining high value wildlife lands with good access for the public.

The Cold Springs area has been off-limits to the public for many years with only limited big game hunting through the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit (CWMU) program. Due to these limitations and restricted public access, the property has become attractive to big game animals with good numbers of mule deer and elk in the area.

"This is 2,657 acres of private land owned by the DWR," Bates said. "It's our goal to protect and preserve the area for all wildlife, wildlife habitat and hunter access."

Carbon County has obtained a right-of-way through the Cold Springs area and now owns the main road from the entrance to the property, down Flat Iron Ridge and connecting with the existing road to Cottonwood Canyon. This route provides another access from Bruin Point to Nine Mile Canyon. It is now possible to make a loop from Bruin Point through Cold Springs to Nine Mile Canyon and then back to Bruin Point using the Dry Canyon road.

According to the DWR access of all other areas of the property will be limited to foot and/or horseback travel to ensure a continued haven for wildlife.

Bates also presented the DWR's plan to managed the Lower Fish Creek area, a region below the Scofield Reservoir dam downstream to the confluence with the White River, on the south side of the Price River near Scofield State Park. The venue is only one of two Blue Ribbon fisheries in Southern Utah, meaning it features some of the best angling in the country.

Access to the area consists of a class B maintained county road through private property, but problems with livestock trespassing and overnight camping by hunters has prompted DWR to request land management of the approximately 1,300 acres.

"This is a beautiful, pristine area with three miles of high-quality fishing," Bates said. "Rainbow trout is abundant, plus there is winter range deer and elk. Our management goals are consistent with state policy. We're advocating day use only with access maintain by both Carbon County and the DWR. We believe this will benefit not only hunting and fishing opportunities, but the wildlife habitating there, as well."

Commission chairman Bill Krompler indicated that county personnel are looking into these proposals and their evaluations should be completed by the next public board meeting.

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