Carbon County appears to be in opposition to the United States Bureau of Land Management's recently released draft resource management plan.
The federal agency conducted public meeting on the draft RMP in Carbon, Emery and Salt Lake counties several weeks ago.
"Over the past couple of years, we had a memorandum of understanding that, while the county worked with the BLM, comments about this issue would be confidential. But now, that is opened up and we would like to let people know that we believe the RMP could have serious implications for the county and its citizens," explained Carbon planning and zoning director Dave Levanger at the last meeting of the local recreation and transportation special service district.
"We do not agree with the plan, have consistently opposed many parts of it and see little consistency with our plan for managing the county's lands," pointed out Levanger.
Presently, organizations, businesses, governmental agencies and individuals have until Oct. 15 to submit public comments about the draft plan.
"The consistency of what they have presented in the plan questionable," indicated Alan Peterson, a local multiple land use advocate. "I went to the meeting in Emery County and asked where the map was located that showed roads recognized by Carbon in the plan and they didn't have it. Then at the meeting here in Price, they used the map I was asking about in the presentation, but it wasn't included in the actual plan. I was then told that they would use that map in the plan. Then at the Salt Lake meeting, the Southern Utah Wilderness Association representatives went ballistic because the BLM showed that map on the screen again but still didn't have it included in the document. What are we supposed to comment on? What's contained in the document or what is in the meeting presentation?"
Scott Wheeler questioned the inconsistencies in the BLM's draft plan regarding off-highway vehicle use.
"They didn't even address it properly," said the local off-highway vehicle advocate. "Actually, they included 150 miles of blacktop roads in the off-road inventory."
The county has produced some documents pointing out the problems Carbon officials see with the plan. For the most part, Carbon's objections center around the following areas:
The county wants the RMP to match what local officials have approved as a master plan. The present form of the RMP doesn't do this. The county said it is committed to multiple use and sustained yield on public lands. A lawsuit called Uintah vs. Norton was filed in 2001, which had to do with the BLM trying to introduce horses into an area where the county master plan did not allow it. Uintah County won the suit and kept the horses out. That set a precedent for a county's master plan to hold measure over federal mandates.
The county has voiced its opposition to layering of land uses and restrictions. These layering methods include various kinds of laws and regulations including visual resource management, areas of critical environmental concern, wild and scenic rivers, special recreation management areas as well as other acts that tie up land for particular reasons. The problem the county sees with these kinds of regulations is that they can be used to the extreme. For instance visual resource management could mean that if a gas well head could be seen 50 miles away in a wilderness area, the area that gas well is in could be regulated. In another instance, according to county officials, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act could impact every drainage attached to a designated river. This means, for instance, that the entire drainage system in the Desolation Canyon area could be made de facto wilderness by the Green River's designation as a wild and scenic river.
The county said it supports protection and management of watersheds, but dislikes the idea of corridor management, such as is found in the Wild and Scenic River designation. The problem with this designation is that often there are bordered lands that are affected by the act and in some cases these restrictions can go well beyond the boundaries of the river itself, affecting side drainages far away from the intended protected areas.
The county also opposes any reduction in grazing rights. The county has a policy of no net loss of private lands, animal unit months (AUMs), or water rights to public agencies.
The county sees the present form of the RMP as being driven by recreation, rather than by other uses of the land. This could result in job loss and other impacts to the county. The county said it feels that minerals, agriculture, timber and other land uses should be on a par with recreation when determinations are made about how land should be used.
The county also has concerns about the forested properties the BLM controls, because some policies could allow harmful insects and wild fires to spread onto privately held adjacent lands.
The use of a recreation opportunity spectrum also troubles the county. The use of parameters to close existing roads and ignore the existence of some roads is opposed by the county. The counties accepted transportation plan, which recognizes roads in the county, was not included in the document.
The county adopted a wilderness proposal in April of this year and it complies with the recreational opportunity spectrum and the county expects the BLM to adhere.
As for the document itself, the county said it is concerned first of all about the maps that are used and their clarity concerning specifics in the county. The county also notes that the length and inclusiveness of the plan is too complex, making environmental assessments obsolete and creating a situation where following the parameters of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) would be nearly impossible. This, in effect, would keep land from being used for almost anything at all.
When these stands were presented to the people at the meeting, many of the industry and government people attending said they were ready to put together groups to comment on the RMP as well.
"The point is if we make comments now it will improve our standing if we have to take action later," stated LaVon Garrison of the Utah State Institutional Lands Trust, which has a major stake in how BLM lands are administered since they have sections of land interspersed in many places surrounded by BLM property.
The public can also view and comment upon on the RMP by contacting the Price field office of the BLM at www.pricemp.com/