Washington County backing Gov. Herbert’s petition over control of ‘roadless areas’ of national forests

The Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness, which has large portions that are inventoried by the federal government as being "roadless areas." Washington County, Utah, March 21, 2016 | File photo by Don Gilman, St George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Commission on Tuesday weighed in on Gov. Gary Herbert’s petition to allow the state to control some areas of federal forestland.

A map shows the inventoried “roadless areas” (marked with brown) within the Dixie National Forest (green) in Washington County | Map courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Hebert is planning to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its 2001 “Roadless Rule,” which prohibits road construction and logging on lands within the National Forest System, including Dixie National Forest in Washington County, that were inventoried as roadless.

The rule was established to protect forests, but in a speech last month at the Utah Rural Summit, Herbert said it has led to overgrown and unhealthy forests filled with dead trees that are at risk of wildfires.

“It is time for us to be aggressive and proactive and say we can, with cooperation, do a better job managing these forests we have,” Herbert said. “Our forest managers, would have … the tools and the flexibility they need to improve the health of our forests and thereby reduce our forest fire risk.”

Read more: Gov. Herbert calls for Utah-specific ‘roadless rule’ to give state more control over forests

Hebert said this petition isn’t a “backdoor approach” to creating more trails for all-terrain vehicles through national forests. However, deputy county attorney Celeste Maloy, in a presentation to the County Commission Tuesday, said it may allow more recreation trails to be built through wilderness areas.

Maloy categorized the different roadless areas within Washington County based on what level of management the county would like to be allowed on those areas. She said most of the areas in the county fell into a category that would mean “new trails could be put in and some vegetation treatment could be done.”

The Washington County Commissioners discuss Gov. Gary Herbert’s petition to the federal government over “roadless areas” in national forests. St. George, Utah, Sept. 18, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

There’s another roadless area that overlaps with Kane County that could possibly be an area for timber management, Maloy said.

“It is the governor’s office’s petition – they’ve asked the counties to weigh in on how we like those areas classified, and that’s what we’d be doing here,” she said.

The county commissioners unanimously approved the resolution, which they jokingly named after Maloy because she’s soon to be leaving her post in the county attorney’s office, to recommend Hebert’s petition.

In other business, the commission also voted to cooperate with LaVerkin for its animal shelter services and to approve an easement through a piece of private property in Dammeron Valley to build a storm drainage system. The Dammeron Valley drainage project is part of an effort to prevent another catastrophic flood in the community like the one that affected 200 homes in July.

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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