Summit County Council Likes Parts Of The Governor's Proposed Changes To The Roadless Rule
In response to an initiative from the Governor's office, Summit County Council member Roger Armstrong says the council wants to control deadfall in the county's national forest, but they don't want to endorse more development in the High Uintas.
The governor has asked counties in Utah if they want to support a petition to the U.S. Forest Service to revise the so-called Roadless Rule, and allow a Utah-specific policy for forest management.
Armstrong told KPCW that council's direction to staff was to try complying with the Governor's proposal. The county still wants to keep its most sensitive forest land under the highest protections it can.
"We do want some limited ability to access the forest." Armstrong said, "Specifically, for forest management, for conservation purposes and for catastrophic fire management. That’s something we have to do and beyond that probably not much more.”
He said the county doesn't agree with all the activities allowed by the state's language.
Armstrong said they're certainly concerned about deadfall in the forest and how it could exacerbate a fire situation.
"We’ve seen what can happen when major fires break out and there’s a real danger in our forest for that. So, that’s legit. The cover letter that came and the instructions that this petition came with actually was wrapped around that." Armstrong explained, "We talked about forest management and controlling catastrophic fires but when you looked at the actual designations that they’re asking us to make recommendations about it includes mineral extraction and it includes additional recreational opportunities in wilderness areas where it’s not allowed now. We need to be very careful that—as I said last week—we stay true to our own values of conservation and making sure that we do the right thing. While we look at how we access the forest how we’re able to get those dead trees out of there.”
On Wednesday, the council met with representatives of the Kamas Ranger District.
"What we discussed with the forest service yesterday is ‘Is there an emergency that you could declare so that you could go in and clear out materials?’ They said yes in the case of a fire." Armstrong continued, "My response was well if there’s an extremely high risk of catastrophic fire as presented by this deadfall and by the dead tress wouldn’t that be an emergency situation? They said that they thought that was something that was probably worth exploring.”
Armstrong said it's expensive for the Forest Service to clear out dead vegetation.
"They cut, and they clear these dead trees."Armstrong said, "They can have gigantic piles of logs, getting those out of the forest after they’re cut down is a real challenge. Even with what can be done commercially, it’s starting to shrink now. The market for what’s left has to be figured out and it’s got to be a larger effort.”
He said the forest areas where they want to limit development were discussed under the Public Lands Initiative with Rep. Rob Bishop.
“We were talking about some of the land very high up in the Uintas which is at the top of our watershed." Armstrong explained, "This is a precious watershed that flows through Summit County that feeds the Salt Lake Valley and the Provo Valley. It provides a lot of water for a lot of people and we do not want that watershed to be compromised.”
Armstrong said that later this week, a couple of council members and county staff will be meeting with state representatives.