Summit County drafts plan for managing resources on public lands
Proposal highlights importance of water resources, air quality and wildlife
July 7, 2017
Summit County has joined the 28 other counties in the state in drafting a plan for how natural resources are managed on federally-owned public lands.
In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed a measure requiring counties to develop a county-wide Resource Management Plan (RMP). A RMP is a "planning document used to define goals, objectives, and strategies for managing natural resources on public lands within each county," according to a draft of the county's plan.
The bill, H.B. 323, which was amended by H.B. 219 during the 2016 legislative session, states counties must create these plans to address how resources will be managed with regard to 28 topics, including water quality and hydrology, air quality, land access and use, and recreation and tourism, among others.
In March, the county hosted two open houses and solicited input online about the county's plan. At the 2016 Summit County Fair, attendees were asked to complete a public opinion survey to identify the top 5 resource planning topics. The themes that emerged were: water quality and hydrology; wilderness; air quality; recreation and tourism; and wildlife and fisheries.
The Summit County Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 12, at the County Courthouse in Coalville. The County Council will consider and possibly adopt through an ordinance the resource management plan. The state requires the plans to be submitted by July 31.
Once adopted, the plan will be added to the Snyderville Basin and Eastern Summit County General Plans. The plan has already been recommended for approval by both governing bodies.
"This helps us to work with our federal partners to ensure Summit County's interests are part of the conversation on how federal lands are managed," said Sean Lewis, a Summit County planner and project manager for the drafting of the plan. "The plan only applies to lands within the county under specific federal jurisdiction. This won't change how things are done in the Snyderville Basin or downtown Peoa."
The RMP addresses all of the federally-owned unincorporated areas of Summit County, totaling about 1,180,248 acres, according to the RMP draft. Nearly one-half of the county is mountainous and much of the High Uintas Wilderness Area is located within its boundaries, it states.
"We want to make sure we are protecting these resources and managing them in a responsible and effective way so we can balance the needs of the end-user, for whomever that may be, such as the recreationalist, the hunter or those who are looking for drinking water and clean air," Lewis said. "It is all interconnected."
State and local officials are authorized to furnish advice to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with respect to the "development and revision of land-use plans, guidelines, rules and regulations for the public lands," according to the RMP plan. It states this is significant because land-use plans adopted by the BLM are required to "be consistent with state and local plans to the maximum extent consistent with federal law and the purposes of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act."
Summit County Council member Kim Carson said the county's plan is slightly more focused on environmental protection than some of the other counties' plans. Summit County's plan even added a 29th topic: scenic resources.
Carson said one of the benefits of this process has been meeting with managers of public lands, in conjunction with Wasatch and Utah counties, to explore the issues that each county is facing.
"This provides a template for us to work together with our Forest Service managers," Carson said. "We want to be partners with them. We don't want to take stuff over from them and I am confident we will have a lot in common. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service area will be due to update its resource management plan and it will be good to have this in place because I think it will serve as a foundation."
To view the county's resources management plan, go to http://summitcounty.org/822/Resource-Management-Plan.