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Access Advocates Raise Concerns about Oil Company Proposal to Purchase Silta Property in County

Sun Advocate community editor

A matter introduced at last Wednesday's county meeting has raised public access concerns.

The issue was the proposed sale of property in eastern Carbon County by the Utah State Institutional Trust Lands to Hunt Oil Company.

The oil company is currently has the title to property in the area.

"This could cut off access to a large amount of (United States) Bureau of Land Management property that exists in the county," pointed out Tim Pilling, bringing the issue to the attention of the county commission.

"There are two roads that run across that property on which the county has no easement. They could be closed if the property were to pass into private hands," added Pilling.

Cedar Ridge Road in the northern part and Bishop Ridge Horse Haven Road in the southern part of section 32 are of concern because they are the most accessible way into BLM property to the south.

Recently, Carbon County government obtained an easement connecting two portions of Cedar Ridge Road from the north and the east.

Any future purchase of the property covered by the county easement will not prevent passage on the designated portion of the road.

However, no easement was obtained by the county for the western stretch that runs toward the Bishop Ridge Haven Road.

"I don't understand why there is no easement on the rest of Cedar Ridge Road," said Alan Peterson of Price, an access advocate concerned about the situation. "We also need an easement on the other road. Otherwise, we will lose access to that area if a private property owner wants to close it."

The county's master zoning map shows no road where the access advocates maintain Bishop Ridge Horse Haven Road exists.

But the road is visable in Carbon County Geographical Systems (GIS) aerial photos.

Carbon officials did not know the Bishop Ridge Horse Haven Road existed until the public lands access advocates pointed it out, explained county lands and access coordinator Rex Sacco.

But its existance does not give the county the right to an easement, even though the road may have been used by all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts or hunters for years.

"Actually, most of the roads in the county have no easement that the county holds," indicated GIS manager Ben Clement.

"That's not uncommon anywhere in the state."

Sacco also explained why the county did not secure the western leg of Cedar Ridge Road.

"The access we secured in the past few months had real purpose," noted Sacco during an interview on Monday. "It is a large, gravel road, that supports both tourist traffic and the mineral industry. With the land sales and swaps being made the commission felt securing that easement was important. However, that western leg of the road just went to private property and the county can't justify spending public money for that."

But Pilling feels that the possible closure is just the tip of an iceberg that is growing larger in the west.

"A similar case occurred in San Juan County during the Moab Jeep Safari,' states Pilling. "Some land was sold by the state last October and a road previously opened to the public was close where it crossed the previously state owned section. The case did recently go to court and the public did get back access to some of the roads in this section of land."

Pilling indicates that he believes Hunt Oil would probably close the roads. Blair Eastman, spokesman for Hunt Oil at the commission meeting indicated that the company would not grant easements on the property should they secure it. However, not everyone is sure that it still wouldn't allow people to travel on the property, at least at some times.

"They might be willing to allow people to use the roads even if they purchase it," said Sacco.

Commissioner Mike Milovich pointed out on Monday that the company has been working with the county and other entities to establish a dedicated easement from Bruin Point to Nine Mile Canyon. That is a positive development, considering the dispute that arose over the Cottonwood Ridge Road between Hunt Oil and the county a few years ago. He also sees that he roads in question are not something the county should do much about.

"Based on the information I have received so far, they go nowhere that would be of interest of the general public," he says. "It just appears to be a dead end."

Hunt Oil will be bidding against other comers for the land in question on Friday in Salt lake at a public sale.

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