EVANSTON — The Tuesday, March 2 meeting of the Uinta County Commissioners included a resolution request from the Uinta County Citizens Coalition for Sound Resource Use in response to an executive order issued in late January by Pres. Joe Biden. Carl Larson, representative of the citizens coalition, approached commissioners with a resolution addressing EO 14008, entitled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”
Larson specifically referenced one specific component of EO 14008, the 30x30 plan, which he said the group is very concerned about. He said those involved in the citizens group had drafted a resolution to submit to the federal government making it clear the county wants to be involved in decision making related to the 30x30 plan.
A press release from the citizens coalition states, “It is apparent that this EO will not include the longstanding tradition of the federal government being required by various federal statues to consult, corporate (sic) and coordinate their proposals for land use with the counties’ comprehensive land use plans.”
The minutes from the March 2 commission meeting state that under the 30x30 plan, “30% of all land in the United States would be permanently set aside and maintained in a natural state. Energy development, forest management, livestock grazing, mineral exploration and development and many recreational activities would be prohibited.”
However, the text of EO 14008 itself, section 216, directs the secretary of the interior, along with the secretaries of agriculture and commerce, the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and department heads of relevant agencies, to submit a report within 90 days of the order “recommending steps that the United States should take, working with state, local, tribal and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.”
The EO goes on to list details of what needs to be included in the report, including how progress toward the goal of conserving 30% of land and water would be measured, and specifically states input from tribes, farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, firefighters and other stakeholders will be collected, with an emphasis on “voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices.”
During the March 2 meeting, Larson stressed that the majority of federal land is located in the western United States and said approximately 38% of the land in Uinta County is administered by the federal government, primarily the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
“There’s no way in the world they can take even all of the federal lands in the country and have it come close to 30%,” Larson said.
According to a report issued by the Congressional Research Service, updated on Feb. 21, 2020, the Federation of American Scientists has calculated the federal government owns approximately 640 million acres, or about 28%, of the land in the U.S. This land is managed primarily by four agencies, including the BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USFS and the National Park Service.
While Larson and other members of the citizens coalition present at the meeting said time was of the essence and urged commissioners to vote to adopt the resolution pending review by Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas, commissioners expressed a reluctance to do so. Commissioners Eric South, Brent Hatch and Mark Anderson all indicated they feel it is important to notify the federal agencies that the county wants to be involved in planning and decision making; however, they also wanted to give Howieson-Kallas time to review the resolution to ensure it meets legal standards prior to adoption.
For her part, Howieson-Kallas said she understands that passions are high following the launch of a new presidential administration but also said she had not had time to review the resolution. She pointed out that the citizens coalition really has no authority and said she would encourage using Uinta County School District No. 1’s concealed carry gun policy that has repeatedly been ruled invalid in court as a “cautionary tale” of not rushing to draft something.
Anderson said, “Any time we can take a stand against some of these outrageous executive orders is a good thing,” but said the prudent step would be to table the measure until Howieson-Kallas could review the resolution. Commissioners opted to do just that and tabled the measure until the next meeting on March 16.
In other business, commissioners voted to reallocate approximately $11,000 from a previous SLIB (State Land Investment Board) grant toward the purchase of a mosquito abatement drone. This reallocation was discussed previously but was never formally voted on; however, the ultimate plan is to reallocate the funds yet again and purchase a search and rescue drone after the county decided to contract out mosquito abatement services and a drone for that purpose is no longer necessary.
Commissioners also approved the acceptance of a Homeland Security grant of approximately $17,000 to be used to pay for 12 mobile repeating units. A mobile repeater is a cell signal booster used to improve cell phone reception. Uinta County Sheriff Doug Matthews said the units would be used to help protect county citizens from a threatened or actual act of terrorism.