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BYWAY SPARKS HEATED DISCUSSION

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Tempers flared recently as charges were leveled against the Box Elder County Commission, saying it failed its citizens by not forcing the Bureau of Land Management to complete required impact studies before it opened the recently dedicated Back County By-Way stretching from the Golden Spike to Lucin.

By the end of the discussion, however, tempers had cooled sufficiently that the commission voted to accept the help of The Box Elder County First Committee, formerly called the Box Elder County Land Use Planning Committee, to head off increased state and federal actions threatening private lands.The group opposes the byway because of potential damage to private property along with the increased cost to the county, which has to provide road maintenance and law enforcement. The group also argues the County Commission should have stepped in when some 90 percent of citizens attending a public meeting expressed opposition.

County Commission Chairman Lee Allen told committee members that the first they knew that the byway was a done deal was when they received an invitation to attend the May 7 dedication. He added that other obligations prevented commissioners from attending the public meeting.

Acknowledging that commissioners are physically unable to "blanket the county," the committee, which is dedicated to preserving counties' rights, renewed its offer to serve the county in an advisory capacity. The commission essentially refused the help in 1992 when a similar offer was made.

According to committee chairman Theone Hansen, federal laws mandate that the federal government must conduct impact studies before any action is taken in any county. He added that the byway issue is not dead. Litigation against the BLM is a possibility. He cited the spotted owl issue in Washington and Oregon as an example of federal actions being reversed because its own laws were not followed.

"County government is the strongest force there is in the country," committee public relations spokesman Bill Misrasi said.

The Box Elder County First Committee is a spinoff of a successful group started in Catron County, N.M.