For users of the Green and Colorado Rivers, changes are coming. The Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands is, for the first time, creating comprehensive management plans for both rivers. The process is a long one, and includes many rounds of public input. The first public engagement meetings have started, but there are more to come.
FFSL is responsible in part for managing sovereign lands of the State of Utah.
“Sovereign land consists of the beds of Utah’s navigable rivers and lakes,” says the organization’s website. “The beds of the Jordan and Bear rivers, as well as portions of the Colorado and Green rivers, are state sovereign lands. The beds of Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake and Bear Lake are all managed by the division under the ‘Public Trust’ doctrine.”
“We want to do an assessment of our sovereign land conditions and we’re at the point now where we can take this information,” said Laura Vernon, sovereign lands planner for FFSL. “We know that the BLM has a lot of resource management plans and guidance documents but we have to take a look at the resources from our perspective. So similar to the BLM we’ll look at all the resources, wildlife, hydrology ... water quality, recreation, cultural resources. We don’t have anything on paper from our perspective that talks about what these conditions are and what the future conditions could be. We’re going to classify the river.”
That classification will take the form of a one-through-six rating based on the degree of use the section of river sees, with one being management to protect existing resource use like bridges, boat ramps or mineral extraction and six being management to protect preservation uses like national parks or wilderness areas. Areas adjacent to the national parks will likely be classified as “Class Six,” Vernon said, “to manage to protect existing resource preservation uses.”
“FFSL is required to ensure that all uses on, beneath or above the bed of the Green and Colorado rivers are regulated to protect navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic beauty, public recreation and water quality. The development of the comprehensive management plans and update of the mineral leasing plan will ensure that FFSL maintains clear and consistent guidance on the management of ... river resources,” states an FFSL press release.
FFSL anticipates having a final plan produced by December 2019 that will incorporate information from a variety of stakeholders, including federal management agencies, tribes and individuals.
Some of the stakeholders most directly affected by the river management plan will be the property owners adjacent to the river. To notify them, FFSL sent out postcards to the landowners whose addresses they were able to identify from the public record. However, two landowners present at the sparsely attended meeting said that they found out from the newspaper and did not receive postcards
FFSL will also be updating their mineral leasing plan for the Green and Colorado rivers. The 1988 plan was amended most recently in 2012 but refers to expired leases, uses outdated maps and was based on extraction methods at the time and does not properly account for newer extraction demands and practices. FFSL will be gathering information and public comment concurrently with the development of the river management plan.
For more information, visit the FFSL website at bit.ly/gcrcmp or email Laura Vernon at firstname.lastname@example.org.