The Grand County Council met for its second workshop session on Friday, May 30 to discuss issues related to alternative land-use designations related to Congressman Bishop’s proposed lands bill for Southeastern Utah.
“The first meeting, I think we didn’t get off to a great start,” Council chairman Lynn Jackson said, referring to contentious May 16 workshop session. “The second meeting seemed to go a lot better.”
Without casting any deciding votes, the council discussed a number of issues citizens raised throughout the public comment period.
“It’s apparent at this point we need to take a little more time and make sure our council members have a full understanding of what we’re doing here,” Jackson said.
They began with discussion of a National Recreation Area (NRA). Jackson presented a re-drafted alternative of Map No. 1 that extended the boundary to include the recreation trails of the north Klondike area.
“There are a few areas that we do know we have mineral reserves, one is a potash area and one is where Fidelity is right now,” council member Gene Ciarus said of land within the proposed NRA boundary. “We ought to protect those [for development] even if we put some kind of controlled surface usage on it. [Controlled surface usage] is not visible, it does not interrupt with outdoor recreation and they can jointly survive together and I think we need to look at that.”
Ciarus recommended separating the NRA boundary into two areas, on either side of the existing oil field near Dead Horse Point State Park and adding a half-mile buffer along U.S. Highway 191 within the current proposed NRA boundary for industrial development. He agreed to work with county staff to draft a proposed alternative illustrating his ideas.
“This area is one of our last areas, from what I know from my geological background, to develop oil and gas,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that revenue from one well is “nothing to sneeze at.”
“The thing I like about this is, we’re not talking about a Uintah Basin kind of thing with 10,000 wells out there, we’re talking 50, 60, 70 well pads,” he said.
The second topic for discussion was a watershed protection zone, which initially had not been included in any alternatives the council had initially presented to citizens.
Ciarus and fellow council member Jim Nyland brought up issues of concern to them over how such an area would be managed and by whom.
“I think this is going to have to be a state water issue and maybe a federal one,” Ciarus said. “This is going to have to be studied. I don’t think the council can do this.”
“Put the info up there and give us an opportunity to learn what type of impact would be up there,” Nyland said. “I want to make sure, that our grazing permits are not jeopardized and any other issues aren’t jeopardized.”
Though the council will take more time to study and discuss a watershed protection area, it was able to draft broad guidelines of five key components it would propose in the watershed protection area: no leasing or mining for mineral extraction; grazing would continue; road and trail networks would remain the same; fuel treatment [wildfire protection] would be allowed; Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and County and State Lands would jointly prepare the protection plan.
Jackson then asked the council to reconsider its position on wilderness designations.
“If our suggestion back to Bishop is only 218,000 acres of wilderness, this [bill] will probably die on the vine,” he said. “It will get no support whatsoever from the national-level wilderness groups.”
Jackson recommended increasing proposed wilderness acreage to 375,000, a compromise between the 218,000 acres of wilderness designated in the 1999 Grand County Wilderness Plan and the 832,000 acres proposed in the Red Rock Wilderness Bill.
“What usually wins the day in collaborative, congressional decisions is something in the middle,” Jackson said. “That’s what our alternative two is and that’s something I think (Bishop) can gain enough support for to at least move this forward and continue the discussion.”
The council will raise the issue again in a future workshop.
Another issue introduced that will have to be discussed in more detail in a future workshop is the idea of a transportation corridor through Sego Canyon. However, Jackson also included Hay Canyon as an option to consider for a possible pipeline or road to carry hydrocarbons from Uintah Basin to the rail line.
“I suggest we leave both of those corridor place holders in place and have language going to the congressman, pending economic and route analysis we may zero in on one or the other,” Jackson said.
He said he thinks the county would have data from the analysis in 4 to 9 months.
Finally, Jackson brought up the subject of the Antiquities Act. All three of the county’s proposed plans called for a prohibition on any future federal use of the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments in Grand County.
“How about a limit on the size of a monument a president could create in Grand County after this?” Jackson said, noting that his reason to rethink the council’s recommendation comes from conversations with stakeholders. “That’s more palatable in Washington than a straight up exclusion.”
After discussion with Nyland and Ciarus, Jackson also agreed to including language that would also set a time limit for designating a national monument.
“For example, the president can designate up to 5,000k acres over a ten year period,” Jackson said.
The next land-designation council workshop is set for Tuesday, June 10 at 1 p.m. at the c.ouncil chambers.
What: Grand County Council land-designation workshop
When: Tuesday, June 10, 1 p.m.
Where: Grand County Council chambers
“If our suggestion back to Bishop is only 218,000 acres of wilderness, this [bill] will probably die on the vine. It will get no support whatsoever from the national-level wilderness groups.”
Jackson recommends adding acreage, finding middle ground