96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735

On our front page this week

  • Juab County Commissioners draft letter protesting Forest Service plans for use of public lands

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

Juab County Commissioners drafted a comment letter to the Uinta National Forest detailing objections to the Forest Service's Draft Land and Resource Management Plan.

Juab County Commissioners have prepared a form letter which can be used by those who are protesting the use of any of the alternatives being proposed by the forest service. Those letters can be obtained from Craig Sperry, county recorder, or from any one of the commissioners.

It is important those comments be sent by Aug. 4, 2001.

"We may represent 8,000 people," said Wm. Boyd Howarth, commission chair, "but our letter will not mean any more than one letter from an environmentalist. The forest service officials look at the size of the piles. One pile with one letter doesn't attract as much attention as one pile with 50 letters."

It was just as the commission did, said Steele, as they noted public interest. When 50 people attended a commission meeting the commissioners were aware the group represented only a small fraction of the 8,000 citizens of the county. Still it was difficult to ignore them and the fact that they thought strongly enough about an issue to attend the meeting.

"The silent majority needs to speak up," said Steele.

The preservationists, or those who were extremists, were gathering forces to lock up the forests and keep them pristine. "Our view is that they should be managed for multi-purpose needs of our citizens," said Joseph Bernini, commission chairman.

Unfortunately, agreed commissioners, the silent majority, as usual, were sitting back and doing nothing. This time they needed to respond and write or sign a letter.

"The local people are good land stewards," said commissioners in the letter, "or why after living in the area for more than 150 years could it still be proposed to be wilderness?"

"We have strong emotions about the resource management plan," said Robert Steele, commissioner. "It's time to manage our forest for the good of the local citizens and throw the padlocks away."

The management plan proposed by the forest service, said Howarth, fails to identify the needs of the citizens of the United States and especially the local residents whose lives revolve around access to the forest.

For that reason, the commission voted to enclose a copy of the county master plan with the response letter they are sending to the Uinta National Forest Supervisor.

"The plan should have addressed placement of future roads, trails, pipelines, power lines, and recreation sites," said Howarth. "A management plan that does not address the projected needs of a citizenry in the near and distant future simply becomes a short-sided attempt at politicizing the natural resources."

Commissioners agreed that of the proposed alternatives, the one the most agreed with was Alternative A. If that proposal were accepted, there would be no new roadless or wilderness areas.

However, commissioners suggested in their letter that the document should have one more proposal&emdash;supplement the forest with other appropriate roads and trails to allow for recreation and access to resources including timber harvest, mining and oil and gas production.

"This would also help alleviate the ever-increasing danger of forest fire," said Steele.

The forest service needs to consider multiple use on the land rather than using the present method of management.

"For example, the current policy seems to favor burning the forests rather than taking the timber and allowing it to be used," said Steele. "If the Forest Service were to log and graze rather than burn, it would more effectively utilize the valuable resources within the forest.

He said the problem with all the alternatives is that it actually create de facto wilderness by managing the forest in a way that closes existing roads.

The 1984 Wilderness Act that created wilderness in the Mount Nebo area caused the closure of existing roads despite the reality that those roads should have continued to be maintained under county control.

"Without allowing for the expansion of existing recreation sites, the current ones will be overused and defeat the purpose of land management," said Steele. "Where are all the 'baby boomers' going to recreate without expanding roads, trails and facilities?"

He said the Uinta Forest officials have apparently decided to revoke the four-wheeler game retrieving policy.

"Although the forest service at the public hearing in Nephi could not specifically identify any areas where this has been a problem. The forest service simply stated that other forests don't have this policy," Steele said.

Other forests don't need the policy because four-wheelers are allowed all the time on roads and trails and trails have been created specially for riding four wheelers in these other forests, he said.

Steele said that, in the past, the forest service has put land into wilderness which does not fit the definition. This has created difficulties for communities as well as citizens in maintaining water distribution systems and water rights.

"The closing of roads to favorite hunting and fishing spots, making it difficult to mine, log and graze has caused local citizens and elected officials to loose confidence and trust in the forest service," Steele said.

The Uinta National Forest hosted four open houses during the month of June to discuss the draft plan. For those wishing to comment in writing, the deadline is Aug. 2. For more information call 342-5100 or write Forest Supervisor, Uinta National Forest, 88 W. 100 N., Provo, 85603-1428, or e-mail; <abauer01@fs.fed.us>.