The United States Bureau of Land Management conducted a scoping meeting Jan. 31 at the Holiday Inn. The Price session allowed the members of the public to speak freely about what they want to see happen with the public lands in Carbon and Emery County.
The local gathering was the sixth meeting slated throughout the state in the past month regarding the Carbon and Emery County areas.
Only three of the sessions were conducted within the two counties in question. The other three scoping meeting were scheduled outside of the neighboring counties in order to hear opinions from visitors to the areas, according to the BLM.
The intent of the meetings is to receive information from the public about how people want to see the public lands managed. The sessions are necessary in order for the federal agency to create a new resource management plan.
The main goal of the BLM is to create the plan with the interests of the public in mind and to provide a plan that fits the public's needs, pointed out federal officials. The plan is expected to be completed by October or December 2003. Public opinion will be reviewed and a plan to accommodate the interests will be completed.
According to the federal agency, 70 percent to 80 percent of the land in Carbon and Emery counties is owned by the BLM or the U.S. Forest Service. With so much land operated by the two services, the public feels that it is important to have a role in the decisions made regarding the use of the land.
At the meeting in Price, the crowd was divided into four small groups and then allowed voice individual concerns regarding the public lands.
A facilitator recorded the comments and, during a briefing at the end of the meeting, explained the concerns raised by the groups to the entire crowd.
The concerns will be taken into consideration when the management plan is drawn up, indicated the BLM.
Concerns expressed by Carbon-Emery citizens included protecting wildlife, providing access for off road vehicles, allowing ranching practices to continue on public lands and reducing the damage that gas companies are doing to the public lands due to production.
The public appears to be concerned with maintaining the environment and keeping the areas as pristine as possible in order to keep the wildlife safe in its natural environment.
At the same time, several citizens in attendance at the meeting expressed concerns about keeping the hunting rights similar to the guidelines currently in place.
The main concern is that access to public lands for the purpose of hunting may change with the management plan that is in the works. The public wants to ensure that new regulations will not restrict the rights that are already in place.
The use of off-road vehicles on public lands was also a hot topic at the BLM scoping meeting. There was quite a fair share of supporters for off road vehicle use and those who wish to limit the use on public lands.
The main concern was that existing roads may be closed or the production of new roads may end.
The argument was that public lands are exactly that, public. Users should not be limited to people who hike or horseback ride. Vehicles should be allowed to utilize as much of public lands as possible, enabling the handicapped and elderly to also enjoy the areas.
One idea circulating at the scoping meeting was to designate off-road vehicle trails using the geographic composition of the land.
The general idea was to allow trails to be constructed where permissible and not interfere with the land any more than necessary. The trails will be the only areas vehicles will be allowed to use and people who chose to disobey the rule would face consequences.
The suggestion would not only allow motorists into public lands, but limit the number who create personal trails on public wilderness lands.
Ranching is also an issue that effects many in the Carbon and Emery County areas.
Ranching has been a local way of life for years and today, for many, the situation is no different. The point that several ranchers at the meeting brought up is that cattle help the environment. The livestock do so by controlling fire hazards with grazing, along with promoting new foliage growth.
Herds usually bring ponds that are placed to allow cattle drinking water. The water is not only used by the cattle, but by wildlife species in the area.
The ponds use natural ground water and promotes cattle to drink from the source. In addition, the livestock ponds provide source of water for the wildlife in the area.
One concern that was continually mentioned at the BLM scoping meeting involved what the people perceived to be the damage that gas companies are doing to the land with the drilling rigs and access roads to the setups.
The concern voiced by the residents in attendance at the session is that the companies are purportedly tearing up public lands for the purpose of aiding the gas exploration projects.
Citizens also questioned whether the companies were adequately maintaining the roads, claiming the production creates severe dust that defaces the land surrounding the area.
Beside the roads, the citizens are also concerned with the amount of gas drills and pumps that are being erected in the local area.
The concern is that, as the gas companies continue to move across the Carbon and Emery County areas, the production will result in disfigured landscape.
Many questions apparently plague citizens regarding the situation.
One question that surfaced at the scoping meeting was: What responsibilities do the gas companies have in providing reconstruction to the original land when the drill or pump is shut down?
Citizens are worried that after the production of gas is complete at a site, that the company will not put forth an effort to reconstruct the area back to its original value.
Citizens residing in the Carbon-Emery area are also concerned about how far the companies plan to expand and what agency enforces laws ensuring that the companies clean up the areas surrounding the gas exploration.
The federal agency intends to explore all the public's questions and find the answers, according to the BLM representatives.
Although the gas companies are bound to have developed resolutions to the potential problems, Carbon and Emery County citizens are not aware of the answers, indicated the BLM representatives.
The public input offered at the meeting confirmed that citizens hope to be more informed regarding the concerns and federal officials plan to fit the topics into the BLM re-management plan.
In addition to raising several primary issues, the citizens in attendance at the BLM scoping meeting expressed numerous other concerns.
Carbon County residents who have ideas or concerns that they wish to be addressed in the land management plan may contact Floyd Johnson at the BLM field office in Price at 435-636-3600.
Public comments regarding the matter may also be mailed to U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Price Field Office 125 S. 600 West Price, Utah 84501.
The BLM will take all concerns under consideration in developing a new resource management plan, according to the federal agency. A rough draft will be introduced to citizens before a final draft is made. The rough draft will allow the public land users to look over the plan and express their opinions regarding the direction the management of the land is going in.