Utah Wilderness News 2004 Archive
Utah wilderness and related public land issues continue to evolve through new developments, both local and national. This web log archive chronicles news through 2004 with brief summaries of the headlines. Acknowledgement is made to the Salt Lake Tribune in addition to other sources cited.
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New Forest Service planning regulations eliminate EIS requirement [December 23, 2004]
The Bush administration has released new forest planning regulations that abolish the requirement for the Forest Service to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) when a national forest plan is revised. The new policy is expected to lead to a reduced level of environmental analysis for the Ashley National Forest plan and subsequent Utah forest plans. The new regulations are controversial because some provisions conflict with the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and prior regulations adopted during the Reagan administration.
BLM backs off lease proposal near Hovenweep [December 8, 2004]
Bureau of Land Management officials decided to postpone oil and gas leasing on two parcels near Hovenweep National Monument, as well as other sensitive lands. Out of the 112,000 acres listed for sale this Friday, only 25,000 acres will be auctioned. The BLM Monticello Field Office had recommended not leasing near Hovenweep, because the land was originally acquired by the BLM to protect the monument's viewshed.
A new management plan for Glen Canyon NRA? [December 8, 2004]
A long drought and receding water levels have uncovered parts of Glen Canyon that have been submerged under Lake Powell for 40 years. Famous features such as Gregory Natural Bridge and Cathedral in the Desert can be seen again, and plant and animal habitat is returning to many side canyons. The dramatic changes have led the Glen Canyon Institute to petition the National Park Service for a new management plan. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Superintendent Kitty Roberts responded that the current plan is adequate. The Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation suggest that the reservoir will fill back up within a few years, instead of a decade or more.
'Land of the fee' for another ten years [December 4, 2004]
Congress has renewed the authority to charge fees for activities on national forests and public lands for ten more years. Beginning with a "fee demo" in 1996, fees have been imposed for some wilderness hiking permits, camping, and access to recreation areas. The fee system raises about $170 million a year. Critics say fees are a form of double taxation and commercialization.
No Cedar Mountain wilderness this year [December 4, 2004]
Designation of a Cedar Mountain Wilderness, part of a House-passed anti-nuclear waste bill introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), failed to win Senate approval. Bishop plans to re-introduce the measure in the next Congress.
Nevada adds 14 new wilderness areas [December 1, 2004]
After three years of effort by grassroots activists and legislators, President Bush signed into law a Bureau of Land Management wilderness bill for Lincoln County in eastern Nevada. The bill, HR 4593, designates 14 new wilderness areas totaling 768,294 acres. The House of Representatives passed it November 17, 2004 after the Senate voted for an identical bill on October 10. More information can be found on the Friends of Nevada Wilderness website.
Utah Wolf Working Group update [December 1, 2004]
At the latest meeting of the Utah Wolf Working Group they debated what to do about possible depredation of livestock by wolves, and when lethal control might be authorized. On this as on most other issues, there was no consensus. That means it will be left up to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources staff to write the draft rules.
Save Our Canyons to appeal helicopter skiing permit [December 1, 2004]
Lisa Smith, executive director of Save Our Canyons, says the group will appeal the new Wasatch Powderbird Guides helicopter sking permit approved by the Forest Service in October. The five-year permit is scheduled to take effect in January. Smith said the Wasatch-Cache National Forest failed to follow through on a previous agreement to monitor the effects of helicopters on golden eagles and to observe buffer zones around nesting areas.
IBLA rules against BLM oil & gas leases in Utah [November 12, 2004]
The Department of the Interior's Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) overturned the March 2002 decision by the BLM to lease about 26,000 acres of potential wilderness for oil and gas exploration. The ruling was based on failure to comply with National Historic Preservation Act requirements for protection of cultural resources and consultation with affected American Indian tribes and the public. The appeal was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
EPA moves to loosen wilderness air quality standards [November 1, 2004]
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (and former Utah governor) Mike Leavitt is proposing a new, less restrictive government standard for atmospheric haze in Class 1 areas, which include national parks and wilderness. The new Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) is expected to be in force before the end of this year. Conservationists and some senators believe CAIR represents a rollback of the 1977 congressional mandate to use the "best available retrofit technology" to improve air quality, the so-called BART guidelines.
Gubernatorial candidates take positions on wilderness [October 17, 2004]
In a sidebar to a Salt Lake Tribune article by Patty Henetz, Democrat Scott Matheson, Jr. and Republican Jon Huntsman, Jr. revealed their views on wilderness designation. Both men are running for Governor of Utah.
Matheson: "We need to move forward with the process to step out of the wilderness stalemate we're in. I subscribe to the multiple-use approach to public lands to include grazing, mining, recreation. A local approach where you've got stakeholders coming together at the county level is a sensible step."
Huntsman: "While some lands have appropriately been designated as wilderness areas, where only nature is allowed, I believe that the majority of our public lands should be managed in a way that balances protection with access."
The article also notes that Huntsman supports Rep. Bishop's bill that would designate a Cedar Mountain Wilderness.
Wasatch helicopter skiing permit renewed by Forest Service [October 16, 2004]
Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor Tom Tidwell has signed a record of decision renewing the Wasatch Powderbird Guides helicopter skiing permit for another five years. Among the provisions of the permit, wilderness tours on the Lone Peak Wilderness will continue but helicopters cannot land skiers on the Twin Peaks Wilderness. The conservation group Save Our Canyons is considering an appeal of the decision.
Pot growers caught on Pine Valley Mountains [October 12, 2004]
Washington County Drug Task Force officials announced the largest marijuana bust in southern Utah history, as more than 1,500 plants worth several million dollars were found on public lands, and four suspects were arrested. The illegal pot plantation was discovered by a hiker in the Pine Valley Mountains.
Federal judge orders release of files on wilderness settlement [October 12, 2004]
The Wilderness Society and other groups won a Freedom of Information Act case with a federal court order giving the Bush administration 30 days to release documentation of secret negotiations with Utah officials. Under the terms of the out-of-court settlement reached in April 2003, BLM wilderness inventory areas in Utah and other states lost their protective status.
Cedar Mountain wilderness bill suffers setback [October 12, 2004]
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) failed to get his anti-nuclear-waste measure, which includes wilderness designation for the Cedar Mountains, incorporated into the Senate version of the defense appropriations bill. Instead, it was attached to an omnibus public lands bill that Congress may not have time to vote on this year.
Comment period extended for Price resource management plan [October 10, 2004]
The BLM has extended the public comment period on the Price Resource Management Plan through November 29. The draft plan was first released last July, and 38,000 comments have been submitted thus far. "The public's input is critical since this [plan] will guide management of more than 2.5 million acres of public land," said Price Field Office Manager Patrick Gubbins.
Forest Service penalized for prescribed fire air pollution [October 6, 2004]
A little over a year since the Cascade Springs II prescribed fire escaped control, the U.S. Forest Service reached a settlement with the Utah Division of Air Quality. The fire filled Wasatch Front valleys with smoke for a week during September 2003. In lieu of paying fines, the Forest Service has agreed to purchase air monitoring equipment and improve training for future prescribed fires.
20th anniversary of the Utah Wilderness Act [September 28, 2004]
The Utah Wilderness Act of 1984 was signed 20 years ago by President Ronald Reagan. The Act designated a dozen national forest wilderness areas, including the High Uintas Wilderness.
BLM Kanab Field Office to designate ORV routes [September 27, 2004]
The Kanab Field Office of the BLM is drafting an emergency order to restrict off-road vehicle (ORV) use. The current resource management plan (RMP), approved in 1987, predates the explosion of ORV recreation. The RMP revision, already behind schedule, is expected to take three or four years to complete.
Zion National Park begins large prescribed fire [September 27, 2004]
Fire managers in Zion National Park ignited the largest controlled burn in the park's history. The Clear Trap Fire fire is planned for 4,400 acres, with the goal of reducing fuels near the eastern park boundary to help reduce wildfire risk to houses on adjacent private land.
National Public Lands Day [September 18, 2004]
National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands. This year, for the11th annual National Public Lands Day nearly 90,000 volunteers built trails and bridges, planted trees and plants, and removed trash and invasive plants. Utah projects were conducted by both the Forest Service and BLM.
Kings Peak plaque has to come down [September 16, 2004]
Lack of understanding about wilderness and Forest Service regulations led to Rick Schuler, a Wasatch-Cache National Forest recreation manager, giving verbal permission over the phone for permanent placement of a plaque atop Kings Peak in the High Uintas Wilderness. The Forest Service now says the plaque must be removed. "It was a screw-up on my part," Schuler said. The error is particularly hard to understand because Kings Peak is on the Ashley National Forest.
Utah abandons RS 2477 test case [September 14, 2004]
Attorneys for the State of Utah withdrew a claim for ownership of the 99-mile Weiss Highway in Juab County due to errors. The claim was filed last January in order to test an April 2003 memorandum between the state and BLM governing resolution of RS 2477 road claims. Utah has threatened to sue the federal government to obtain rights of way to thousands of dirt roads, many of them abandoned. The state has initiated a new test case regarding two short roads in Daggett County that total a little over four miles in length.
Memorial plaque placed atop Kings Peak [September 13, 2004]
On September 11, a bronze plaque honoring Jim Cawley was placed at the summit of Kings Peak, the highest point in Utah. Kings Peak is within the High Uintas Wilderness. Cawley, a Salt Lake City police detective and Marine Reservist, was the first Utahn to die in the Iraq war. The plaque was carried into the wilderness by his brother and a group of 7 police colleagues.
Sec. Norton announces mineral withdrawal [September 11, 2004]
Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton signed an order prohibiting new hard-rock mining claims along 200 miles of the Colorado, Green and Dolores rivers in Utah. The rim-to-rim withdrawal protecting scenic views from several national parks had been proposed by the BLM in 1999.
Gov. Walker wants local loggers to have priority in southern Utah [September 10, 2004]
Gov. Olene Walker signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service that gives local loggers first crack at some timber sale contracts in southern Utah. The memorandum also creates a "Forest Restoration Partnership Working Group" comprised of state, local and forest officials.
Another record BLM lease sale [September 10, 2004]
The September quarterly BLM lease sale broke the record set last June. Bids were received on 159 parcels totaling 245,775 acres. Another 111,575 acres remain open to non-competitive bidding. Some 19,338 acres spread over 21 parcels may be eligible for wilderness designation according to the BLM. Half of the $28 million from the sale will go to the State of Utah.
40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act [September 3, 2004]
The Wilderness Act was signed 40 years ago today, by President Lyndon B. Johnson in a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden.
20th anniversary of the Arizona Wilderness Act [August 28, 2004]
The Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 was signed 20 years ago by President Ronald Reagan. The Act designated Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs and Beaver Dam Mountain, two BLM wilderness areas that lie partly inside southern Utah.
Wild lynx venture into Utah [July 27, 2004]
Two male Canada lynx released in southern Colorado last spring have been located in Utah. They are wearing collars with GPS units that relay their positions to Colorado Division of Wildlife researchers once a week. One has traversed the south slope of the High Uintas, and the other is believed to be in Desolation Canyon. Lynx are federally listed "threatened" species, and there have been no confirmed sightings of native wild lynx in Utah since the 1970s.
Guide to Utah wilderness set for December release [July 24, 2004]
Westcliffe Publishers now plans to release the much-delayed book, Utah's Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide in December 2004. According to Associate Publisher Linda Doyle, "Utah is a very difficult state to pin down in regards to wilderness areas - very political - lots of revisions to the original manuscript. However, when it does come out it should be very accurate."
Utah plans another state-federal land exchange [July 15, 2004]
Utah officials are working on plans for a 35,000-acre land exchange that would transfer state inholdings in wilderness study areas along the Colorado River to the federal government in exchange for land in the Uinta Basin with potential for oil and gas development. Rep Chris Cannon reportedly is drafting legislation to implement the proposed exchange.
Forest Service releases draft ORV policy [July 14, 2004]
USDA Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth announced a proposed rule requiring a nationally consistent approach to travel management for all national forests and grasslands, denoting use of routes by vehicle type and time of year. The text of the draft is available on the Forest Service website. ORV users account for about five percent of the annual visitation in the National Forest System.
Grand Canyon Trust takes over large grazing allotment [July 13, 2004]
The Grand Canyon Trust has signed an option to purchase 1,000 acres of private ranch land in northern Arizona and more than 900,000 acres of associated grazing permits on public lands, including most of the Kaibab National Forest and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. "We're going to run as few cows as we possibly can," said director Bill Hedden. However, federal permit minimums will make the Grand Canyon Trust one of the biggest cattle operations on the Colorado Plateau.
Bush administration to reverse roadless rule [July 13, 2004]
Under a new proposal by the Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Venemann, a roadless area conservation policy established under the Clinton administration would be reversed unless state governors petition the federal government to block road-building on national forests. Eventually, up to 58 million acres of roadless areas could be opened to logging.
Utah wolf debate reaches an impasse [June 30 2004]
After failing to reach consensus, the Utah Wolf Working Group has decided to allow a draft wolf management plan to be written by a consultant, Walt Gasson of Wyoming-based Dynamic Solutions. This plan is expected to serve as a basis for renewed discussion.
Oversight hearing on RS 2477 [June 28, 2004]
The House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands held a field hearing today in St. George, Utah on issues related to Revised Statute 2477, and 1866 law that granted broad rights to construct highways across federal land. Although the law was repealed in 1976, existing RS 2477 rights of way were grandfathered. Today there is a lot of disagreement between states, counties and the federal government over where these rights of way exist across wildlands. Environmental groups are concerned that RS 2477 claims could be used to block wilderness designations.
BLM lease sale sets record [June 26, 2004]
The June Oil and Gas Lease Sale held June 25, was the largest ever in Utah both in terms of acres leased and total bids received. BLM leased 123 parcels, consisting of 203,077 acres. The sale netted $9,951,502, half of which will be given to the State of Utah.
San Juan County claims road in Canyonlands [June 17, 2004]
On the same day the National Park Service finalized the closure of Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park to motorized traffic, San Juan County filed a complaint in U.S. District Court. The county claims the route through the canyon, in use by motor vehicles since before the park was established, as a county right of way under RS 2477.
SUWA loses Supreme Court ORV case [June 17, 2004]
In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance seeking to force the BLM to protect wilderness study areas from off-road vehicles. While the court sought to avoid judicial interference in land management agency decisions, the decision suggested that agencies cannot be held legally responsible for implementing their own plans.
Utah renews threat to sue over RS 2477 [May 20, 2004]
Assistant Attorney General Ralph Finlayson revealed that the State of Utah filed a supplemental notice of intent to sue on May 12, renewing the threat of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior over RS 2477 rights of way that was originally made by Governor Mike Leavitt in June 2000. The state continues to maintain that the location of RS 2477 claims must be kept secret due to the potential for litigation.
Cedar Mountain wilderness bill wins committee approval [May 20, 2004]
Legislation to designate a 100,000-acre Cedar Mountain Wilderness, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), was passed by the House Resources Committee. The bill, H.R. 2909, is primarily intended to block rail shipments of high-level nuclear waste to a proposed storage site on the Goshute Reservation in Skull Valley. Proponents of the waste facility plan to fight the measure.
Heli-skiing may be expanded in Wasatch wilderness [May 14, 2004]
According to the environmental impact statement for Wasatch Powderbird Guides' application to renew a heli-skiing permit, some wilderness operations may be expanded. The proposal would add new routes through the Lone Peak and the Twin Peaks wilderness areas. Helicopter landings would take place just outside the wilderness boundaries.
RS 2477 disclaimer test case runs into trouble [May 10, 2004]
Utah's first right of way claim under a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Interior seems to be on shaky legal ground. The 99-mile Weiss Highway in Juab County was originally built and paid for entirely by the federal government, and the county signed away any ownership claim to a major section of the road in 1936. The BLM is reviewing the state's application for ownership of the right of way.
County leads jeep tour through Arch Canyon [May 5, 2004]
When the BLM denied a permit to organizers of an annual Jeep Jamboree, San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy led a 30-vehicle jeep tour up Arch Canyon on April 30. The county claims the rough, six mile route as an RS 2477 right of way. Upper Arch Canyon is on the Manti-La Sal National Forest, while the lower part is on BLM and state land.
Gov. Walker wants to establish "wilderness work groups" [May 4, 2004]
Yesterday, Governor Olene Walker announced a plan to create "wilderness work groups" around the state. Each group's membership would include representatives from the BLM, county commissions, the governor's office, state agencies, industry and stakeholder organizations. The governor plans the first such group for Washington County.
"Our plan in each county or region is to set up a group of people committed to solve the problem," said Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie. "We're confident that as we go county-by-county or region-by-region we can focus on things we agree on and move onto other things later."
Judge upholds Grand Staircase-Escalante proclamation [April 20, 2004]
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson rejected arguments by the Utah Association of Counties and the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) that President Clinton's 1996 decision to establish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was illegal. MSLF president William Perry Pendley plans to appeal the decision.
National groups challenge BLM wilderness settlement [April 5, 2004]
Lawyers from Earthjustice, representing several national environmental groups, have asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court to invalidate a wilderness settlement reached last year between the State of Utah and the Department of the Interior. As a result, 2.6 million acres of potential Utah wilderness inventoried by the BLM in 1999 lost "wilderness inventory area" status.
Wolf policy or 'no wolf' policy? [March 13, 2004]
The Utah Wolf Working Group (WWG) scoping hearings so far have been dominated by anti-wolf sentiment. The policy preferences expressed by the majority at the Salt Lake City boiled down to a simple "no wolves in Utah." At the Logan hearing, a pro-wolf advocate was subjected to intimidation. In future meetings, the WWG members will discuss the public input from the hearings.
Senator Bennett wants to broker a wilderness deal [March 11, 2004]
U.S. Senator Bob Bennett said yesterday that he perceives a need to protect more wilderness in Utah. "Most Utahns are entirely sick of the wilderness debate, regardless of which side of the issue they're on. During the first 10 years of my service in the Senate, there had not been a real interest in pursuing a resolution to the question of wilderness; however, in recent years, I have sensed a growing desire to find one," Bennett said. Senator Bennett intends to seek a third term in November.
Utah wilderness on NRDC 'endangered' list [February 27, 2004]
A list of a dozen endangered Western Hemisphere "BioGems" by the Natural Resources Defense Council includes Utah's 9.1 million acres of BLM land proposed for wilderness designation by the Utah Wilderness Coalition.
2004 federal grazing fee announced [February 25, 2004]
The grazing fee for BLM and Forest Service public lands will be $1.43 per animal unit month (AUM) in 2004, up from $1.35 in 2003. One AUM is equal to 850 lbs. of forage, roughly enough to feed one cow or five sheep for a month.
County road claims rejected by federal court [February 25, 2004]
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ruled against RS 2477 road claims made by San Juan, Kane and Garfield Counties in 1996. Campbell ruled that 15 of the 16 claims did not qualify for county rights of way because roads must have been purposely constructed and must serve a public purpose. Tracks made by the passage of vehicles do not meet this definition.
ORV lawsuit heads for the Supreme Court [February 23, 2004]
In 1999, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and seven other environmental groups filed a lawsuit accusing the BLM of allowing too many off-road vehicles to traverse wilderness study areas. The case has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where arguments will be heard March 29. A key question is to what extent the courts can compel federal agencies to take actions to implement Congressional policy.
BLM auctions more oil & gas leases in WIAs [February 18, 2004]
In one of the largest lease sales in recent history, the Utah office of the BLM auctioned off 62 oil & gas leases on 78,700 acres for $6.3 million. The sale was controversial because it included parcels protested by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Some of these included land inside wilderness inventory areas (WIAs) and others were adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument. The protest is likely to lead to an appeal before the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
GAO says RS 2477 agreement violates moratorium [February 13, 2004]
A legal opinion from the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) says the April 2003 agreement between Utah and the Department of the Interior for granting rights of way across public lands violates a Congressional moratorium on any new rules regarding RS 2477 claims. Congress enacted the moratorium in 1997 to stop then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt from moving ahead with plans to resolve the issue. The GAO report was requested by Colorado Rep. Mark Udall. The State of Utah plans to proceed with requests for right of way disclaimers.
Wallace Stegner Symposium will discuss wilderness [February 12, 2004]
For its ninth annual symposium, the Wallace Stegner Center at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The symposium is scheduled for April 16-17. Advance registration will be required.
Utah Wolf Working Group update [January 20, 2004]
The Utah Wolf Working Group (WWG) met again today to discuss legal, biological, economic and socio-political issues surrounding wolf management. What will happen if and when Utah wolves lose their federal protection and the state makes the rules? The WWG plans to hold a series of public scoping meetings March 8-12, 2004.
FAA may abandon proposed air traffic routes over Wasatch wilderness [January 17, 2004]
After criticism from the public and Delta Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration is rethinking its plan to change the landing pattern for Salt Lake International Airport. The proposed new route for arriving aircraft would result in frequent low-level overflights of Wasatch Mountain wilderness areas.
Court hears arguments against Grand Staircase-Escalante NM designation [January 15, 2004]
After seven years of procedural delays since President Clinton proclaimed the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, attorneys for the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) presented their case against the monument before U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson. Representing the Utah Association of Counties, the MSLF lawyers argued that Clinton exceeded his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act by establishing a de facto wilderness. No federal court has ever reversed a national monument designation.
Governor submits first RS 2477 application to BLM [January 14, 2004]
Governor Olene Walker and Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie moved toward resolving some rural road disputes by submitting an application to the Bureau of Land Management for the right of way to the Weiss Highway in Juab County. This was the first of 20 RS 2477 road claims proposed by the state in connection with a memorandum of understanding signed April 9, 2003.
Forest Service team considers new ORV rules [January 8, 2004]
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a special Forest Service planning team headed by Intermountain Regional Forester Jack Troyer has been meeting to address concerns about exploding off-road vehicle use on the national forests. Illegal cross-country travel by all-terrain vehicles is one of the major threats to conservation of roadless areas.
Comments accepted on BLM grazing EIS [January 3, 2004]
A draft environmental impact statement was released yesterday in support of the new BLM grazing regulations proposed on December 5. Among other provisions, the new rules limit public involvement in grazing decisions and eliminate "conservation use" permits held by non-ranchers. The comment period runs through March 2.
Salt Lake County drops some RS 2477 road claims [December 31, 2003]
County Mayor Nancy Workman sent a letter to the Utah Attorney General's office this month listing eight right of way claims on the Wasatch-Cache National Forest that Salt Lake County will not pursue, while continuing to claim 15 others. All the abandoned claims are in Big Cottonwood Canyon. For the first time, the county revealed the location of the claims. Thousands of public land right of way claims by other counties remain secret.
Grand County rejects wild and scenic rivers [December 20, 2003]
By a vote of 4-3 this week, the Grand County Council decided to send a letter to the BLM opposing all wild and scenic river designations. BLM officials said the county's opposition was premature, because only Congress can make such designations. The agency is required to inventory wild and scenic river segments as part of the regular planning process. A draft resource management plan is due by spring 2005.
Gov. Walker appoints wildlands task force [December 19, 2003]
Fulfilling a promise made by former Gov. Mike Leavitt to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), Gov. Olene Walker today appointed a 16-member task force to identify the state's premier outdoor recreation destinations. The task force is made up of state government officials, county commissioners and OIA business representatives. Members of the OIA criticized Leavitt earlier this year for arranging a court settlement with the Department of the Interior that prohibited new wilderness inventories on BLM land, including about six million acres in Utah. The association has threatened to move its twice-annual trade shows to another state unless Utah develops a more wilderness-friendly policy.
Utah proposes regional haze plan [December 13, 2003]
Utah Governor Olene Walker submitted a plan to the EPA yesterday that proposes a cap on haze-forming air pollution from power plants and other industrial sources. The plan is part of the multi-state Western Regional Air Partnership program, aimed towards improving visibility at national parks.
Sen. Leiberman requests road claim data [December 5, 2003]
A letter from Senator Joseph Leiberman to Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton requests the release of information the department has gathered regarding road claims across federal lands in Utah.
New grazing rules favor ranchers [December 5, 2003]
Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton today proposed changes to grazing policies, to make it more difficult for the BLM to control usage of grazing allotments, to limit public involvement in range management decisions and grant some property rights to ranchers on public land.
Healthy Forests Initiative becomes law [December 4, 2003]
President Bush signed the Healthy Forests Initiative into law today. The timber industry lobbied hard to get this bill passed, because it relaxes NEPA requirements for timber sales related to wildfire fuel reduction. A number of national forest roadless areas are targeted for logging.
Oil and gas leases sold on Utah WIAs [December 2, 2003]
According to news accounts, the BLM's quarterly oil and gas lease sale last month included 12 parcels located within wilderness inventory areas (WIAs) on the Book Cliffs and Desolation Canyon. The WIAs were opened to development by an agreement last April between then-Governor Mike Leavitt and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.
McKeachnie to take point on public lands [November 29, 2003]
Utah Governor Olene Walker announced this week that Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie will be the state's new point man on public lands issues. The initial presumption is that McKeachnie will placate rural leaders made nervous by former Governor Mike Leavitt's overtures to wilderness advocates.
State funds Grand Staircase-Escalante grazing permit appeal [November 23, 2003]
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Permanent Community Impact Board Fund is providing money for attorney's fees in an attempt to seize four BLM grazing allotments on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Grand Canyon Trust purchased the permits for more than $600,000, and sought permission from the BLM to end or reduce grazing on the allotments. Three ranchers, including a Garfield County commissioner, filed an appeal to claim the permits for themselves on the grounds that the Grand Canyon Trust is not a legitimate ranching operation.
Utah Wolf Working Group holds first public meeting [November 11, 2003]
The Utah Wolf Working Group held its first public meeting November 10. The goal of the working group (made up of representatives from government agencies, interest groups and Utah State University) is to help the Utah Divsion of Wildlife Resources develop a statewide wolf management plan by May 1, 2005.