A public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 22, on "treating" vegetation on public land is shaping up as a forum on grazing.
The Bureau of Land Management hearing starts 6:30 p.m. in the Salt Lake County Commission Chambers, north building, 2001 S. State.According to a draft environmental impact statement, goals of the treatment program include suppressing toxic plants, enhancing visibility, maintaining trails, facilitating drainage, reducing fuel buildup that could cause wildfires, and controlling the expansion of exotic species that may otherwise invade adjacent agricultural or pasture land.
Treatment options discussed are use of chemical herbicides, manual or mechanical destruction of plants, biological controls and prescribed burning. The BLM is considering five alternatives acreage figures, ranging from 242,505 to 371,640 acres annually.
The proposed alternative is also the one with the most acres to be treated.
No acreage breakdown was listed in the report for Utah. But Don Banks of the BLM said that under the proposed alternative, maximum acres treated in Utah per year are: cutting, 600 acres; chaining, 4,900; tilling, 3,700; mowing, 2,600; aerial application of chemicals, 5,300; spraying from the ground, 4,800; prescribed burn, 6,200; insects, 200. The total is 28,300 acres, or more than 44 square miles.
"Chemical or prescribed burning methods will be used to treat the greatest proportion of acres in all five alternatives," says the draft report.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an environmental group, charges that the plan is really a way to alter public land to assist livestock grazing.
"The fact is that Western lands are already horrendously overgrazed," says the alliance's most recent newsletter. The group says the plan would "treat" and in many cases eradicate one million acres of natural vegetation, including pinyon-juniper forests, every three years.
The group urged environmentalists to attend the hearing and make comments.