ESCALANTE, Garfield County -- Calling the Bureau of Land Management's wilderness reinventory of public lands " a waste of time and money," ranchers in Garfield County have launched their own inventory.
The first document has been forwarded to elected officials in Washington, D.C., in the hopes that they will examine, study and lend support to the findings.The Garfield County ranchers started their own inventory after a BLM meeting in Escalante on April 23. Most live in the Escalante, Bryce Valley and Boulder areas.
"We were forced to spend our own time and money to do their job for them in order to protect our rights," said rancher Myron Carter, who, with his associates, has worked virtually night and day develop their own inventory.
The inventory is meant to catalog lands sufficiently pristine to qualify as wilderness.
"It's pretty hard not to notice fences, reservoirs, stock tanks, mining sites, roads, wells, windmills, oil derricks, chained areas or obviously man-made imprints in the BLM's would-be wilderness areas," Carter said.
He added that many ranchers are puzzled at the apparent contradictory stance of environmentalist extremists who on the one hand say that reservoirs and roads are "unnoticeable" in order to qualify an area as wilderness and yet refuse to consider the continued use of or addition of any more improvements.
The controversy is evident in the Little Egypt area near Escalante, where ranchers documented four reservoirs, six springs, six stock watering tanks and one sheep tank but say BLM documents don't show the reservoirs and only two springs and stock tanks.
Ranchers say the BLM failed to utilize its own key Escalante office personnel who would have been intimately familiar with and highly qualified to assist with the study.
Ranchers have long been at odds with environmental groups, primarily the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and now efforts are being made to organize in Garfield County chapters of People for the USA. This is a nonprofit organization composed of a coalition of individuals, communities, industry and local governments that are joining together to advocate what they call "common sense reform of environmental regulations."
The ranchers' inventory further challenges the BLM re-inventory on 12 roads and "ways" that they claim were either not listed or reinventoried incorrectly. Ranchers recognize about double the number of vehicle " ways" than that recognized by the BLM. Carter said these are used every year to check on cattle.
Another point of contention, as far as ranchers are concerned, is that the BLM's re-inventory results are found on the World Wide Web but are not always published in newspapers because the information is not a paid advertisement.
The ranchers are seeking to extend the comment period to that equal to the time the BLM had to prepare its re-inventory.