Concerning wilderness, Iron County leaders say enough is enough
Cedar City • Iron County commissioners say their area has enough wilderness. And they want the planning commission to amend the county's general plan to reflect their opposition to any new policies that restrict development of resources in the county under the label of wild spaces.
The commission this week discussed the possible addition of wilderness areas based on a wildlands initiative announced recently by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that requires the Bureau of Land Management to inventory property for possible designation as wildlands.
Three chunks of BLM land in the county are already designated as wilderness study areas, along with the already designated Ash Down Gorge Wilderness Area, and commissioners believe that is enough.
"We're concerned that his [Salazar's] order would create de facto wilderness," said County Commission Chairman Alma Adams. He said the county prefers that the mostly BLM lands in the county be managed as multiple-use.
He said managing land as wilderness could tie up the property for 30 years or more while it goes through the designation process in Congress.
Adams and his commission colleagues have ordered the planning commission to include their concerns in an ordinance, in the county's resource-management plan and in its general plan.
"We want to have our ducks in a row," said Adams.
Salazar's edict is also a concern to Utah's senators, who met with the secretary earlier this week to discuss the "wildlands" policy.
Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee are leery of Salazar's order, which negates a 2003 agreement between then Gov. Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton that stripped BLM's authority to create wilderness.
Hatch believes that such designations would be "devastating" to rural Utah and said Utahns are tired of being "dictated" to by the federal government.
Adams said the planning commission likely will take up the matter in March.
Mike Worthen, management resource specialist with the county, said the proposed ordinance would not be site-specific and would emphasize the importance of a multiple-use approach.
"We fear the direction we would go if lands were designated wilderness," he said.
Gina Ginouves, the planning coordinator with the BLM field office in Cedar City, said her office is in the process of revising its resource management plan for 2.1 million acres in Iron and Beaver counties.
The work is in its early stages and probably won't be ready for three years. It would include alternatives on which the public could comment.
The agency is interested in the county's input, she said.
Mark Ward, senior policy analyst and public lands counsel for the Utah Association of Counties, said the BLM's Cedar City field office is the latest of 10 field offices around the state to update its resource-management plan. Six offices covering 13 counties have new documents in place.
He said counties considering wilderness and other designations can use resolutions or ordinances to clarify their position on management efforts.
Tribune staffer Thomas Burr contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org