Online survey launched about public land management | ParkRecord.com

Online survey launched about public land management

Summit County officials say they "weren't exactly thrilled" when the Utah Legislature passed a bill a couple of years ago that required counties to prepare plans outlining the management of public lands within the state.

"We felt like it was tied to the state's plan to get the public lands transferred back to the state," said Kim Carson, a Summit County Council member.

In 2015, Gov. Gary Herbert signed House Bill 322, which established the content requirements for the county's resource management plans. During the most recent legislative session, the governor also signed HB 219, which modified the requirements of the previous bill and shifted the focus to public land management. Under the new bill, each county is required to prepare a plan that will eventually be crafted into a state resource management plan.

To help the Summit, Utah and Wasatch county governments develop their plans, Mountainland Association of Governments recently launched on online survey to better understand the preferences of residents regarding public land management within their counties. The association also hired a data consultant to collect information about nearly 30 issues directly tied to public lands, such as livestock and grazing, fire management, weeds, water rights and wetlands.

"Those are the topics that have to be addressed for the plan, which will essentially be the genesis of interface between counties and the federal and state governments about how resources are managed on public lands," said Sean Lewis, a Summit County planner leading the project.

The survey asks respondents to answer 10 questions about public land use and resource priorities. However, the survey does not specifically reflect Summit County, Lewis said.

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"What we want to know is if the public wants us to focus on, say for example water quality, then we will spend more time focusing on water quality," Lewis said. "But if we find out they really don't care about, say energy resources, then we will spend less time on that. The survey is mostly just asking questions to give us a priority about what things are important to you."

The survey went live nearly two weeks ago and will remain available until sometime in September, Lewis said. He also encouraged everyone to take the survey, adding that the bigger the sample size, the more reliable the data will be.

Tom Fisher, Summit County manager, said it is "quite a joint effort" that is taking place to collect the data and ultimately craft the plan. He said the Summit County Council will be responsible for later adopting it into the county's General Plan.

Carson said she was initially skeptical of the state's requirements, but now views it as an opportunity to work with stakeholders on what "we want to see happen with these public lands."

"We hope to really strengthen those relationships so we can work proactively on projects to protect our watershed, for instance, and have a seat at the table," Carson said.

A link to the survey is currently posted on the homepage of the Summit County website, http://summitcounty.org/. The survey can also be accessed directly by going to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/countyresources.