By Myrna Trauntvein
Prior to deciding what roads in the Granite Canyon in the Deep Creek Mountain Range need to be kept open, commissioners first met with the people of the West Desert.
Following the initial meeting, when commissioners met with the interested folks from the area, it was decided to abandon some of the roads there.
"We discussed the issue again when we attended the meeting with the people of West Desert at the meeting in the Partoun School last week," said Glen Greenhalgh, county planning director.
"The issue has to do with the lawsuit the state has been working on with Juab County on the Deep Creek Mountain roads," said Chad Winn, commission chairman. "We met with the residents of the West Desert in Partoun last year and talked about roads that we absolutely had to have and some we might could trade off."
The county and the state have gone through the information gained and are now prepared to hold public hearings, he said.
The Juab County Commission is now advertising notice of its intent to abandon several of these county roads.
"The roads being considered for abandonment are part of a settlement agreement to secure the public's right to use certain County roads in the vicinity of Granite Canyon in the Deep Creek Mountain Range located in the West Desert area of Juab County," said Greenhalgh.
A public hearing will be held concerning abandonment of these roads on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 3 p.m. in the Juab County Commission chambers, 160 North Main Street, Nephi.
Some roads in the area are exempted from abandonment.
"As part of the settlement on the Deep Creek Mountain roads," said Jared Eldridge, county attorney, "the county will have title to the agreed upon roads."
Prior to a settlement agreement and Consent Decree Juab County claims rights of way for the following roads identified on the maps included in Exhibits 2, 3, 4 and 6 which are available for inspection in the office of Pat Ingram, Juab County Clerk.
Those roads exempted from abandonment are: 1) Granite Canyon Road right of way, (2) Tom's Creek Road right of way, (3) Trout Creek Road right of way, (4) Creek Route, (5) Indian Farm Route, (6) Red Cedar Canyon Route, (7) Cottonwood Canyon Route, (8) Horse Canyon Route, (9) Birch Creek North Route, (10) Wood Canyon Route, (11) Red Ledge Route, (12) Birch Creek South Route, (13) Little Canyon Right Fork Route, (14) Dry Canyon Route, and (15) Water Canyon Route.
All other roads or rights of way located within the Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and waiver area described on the maps identified as Exhibits 2, 3, 4 and 6 are being considered for abandonment.
"While we were at commission meeting held in Partoun last week, we received the further approval of the people in attendance there," said Greenhalgh. "We reviewed those roads with those in attendance at the meeting Monday and we were still in agreement," said Greenhalgh.
The public hearing will allow the commission to receive comments regarding the proposed road abandonments.
Greenhalgh said that a more particular written description of the roads as well as the boundaries of the relevant WSA is available for inspection at the Juab County Clerk's office.
"We filed a lawsuit several years ago," said Greenhalgh. "You are probably all aware that the state filed massive lawsuits on all of the roads on public land."
He said that the state has agreed with the federal government to not pursue those lawsuits for three years. During that time the state would take depositions from those who might be aversely affected by closures.
The roads in Juab County which are part of the agreement are being handled under an agreement reached through the court.
"These are our roads," said Eldridge. "The federal government agreed that these are our roads."
The BLM did, however, expect that, when a lot of people are recreating in the area (such as Easter time), the county would enforce the ordinance that people stay on the open roads and stay off of those that are abandoned.
The roads in question range from 6.5 to 9 miles long, and are located in the western, largely uninhabited part of the county. They were closed by the Bureau of Land Management in the late 1980s because, according to BLM officials, they extended into a designated wilderness study area.
However, said Greenhalgh, the roads met the parameters for what has been defined by Congress as a public road.
Juab County and State of Utah were defendants in the suit heard before Utah District Court Judge Tena Campbell against the USA, United States Department of the Interior and United States Bureau of Land Management The suit, and the other filed road complaints, are part of a state program called the Public Roads Over Public Lands Project, an ongoing effort to reclaim control of the state's roadways in remote areas.
The project is a joint effort among the governor's office, attorney general's office and Utah's counties to preserve state and local ownership and control of established roads crossing public lands.
Almost 70 percent of the land in Utah is owned by the U.S. government and numerous roads traverse federally managed public parcels.
"The county commission was required to take two actions," said Greenhalgh.
One of those requirements was to pass an ordinance making it a violation of county code for those using open roads in the area to go onto roads that were not open.
The roads the commission traveled to and looked at with residents of the West Desert, who depend on some of the roads remaining open in order for them to have access to perform their work, were identified.
"Most of the ones proposed to be abandoned by the county are not as essential and other open roads would allow different ways to get to the same place," said Greenhalgh.
Granite Canyon Road is 6.5 miles long and has been used by ranchers, sheepherders, prospectors and campers since the 1880s. The road has been regularly maintained and bulldozers began grading it in the 1950s.
Tom's Creek Road is nine miles long and has been used by homesteaders, ranchers, prospectors and recreational users since the 1870s. It had been maintained by shovels and picks since the 1930s and later by county road crews using heavy machinery.
Trout Creek Road is 6.7 miles long and has been used by campers, prospectors and county residents since the 1870s. Prior to 1976, bulldozers, heavy equipment and hand labor were used to maintain the road.