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YOU GOTTA WONDER

By Board Member David Jorgensen

Some willingly label environmentalists as extreme. Some of those same people seem oblivious to their own brand of extremism.

On June 28th, my wife and I stood around with Forest Service, local government and state officials at readily accessible spots by Sheep Creek, Carter Creek and Cart Creek either in or near the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area to discuss the Ashleyís Wild and Scenic River Inventory. The day was brilliant. The colors were riveting. The waters shined. Nevertheless, if you were to judge only the remarks of local government representatives, the conversation was mindless.

Thankfully, the Forest Service personnel knew their facts, and the two people who represented the state government were helpful. One state representative even expressed his praise for the methodology used by the Ashley to determine which water courses were eligible to be considered for some kind of designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Each of the three creeks we visited empties into Flaming Gorge. Ironically, Flaming Gorge Dam does not now make any more water available for human consumptive use in Utah than a free flowing Green River would. To get Flaming Gorge or Green River water even to Vernal, you would either have to build aqueducts, which would probably include tunnels, or install pumps. You might think that contemplative government officials wanting to appear "fair and balanced" might not care about potential protective designation for streams which are: a) already partially backed up by an existing large dam, b) not presently capable of being diverted for Uintah Basin use, 3) located in and near a National Recreation Area, and 4) small.

But if you thought that, you would be wrong. No county official seemed impressed with the value of Sheep Creek to bighorn sheep or bats. Along Cart Creek, at a spot by a dirt road which significantly affected the beauty of the place, a consultant to Uintah County expressed his fears that motorized recreational opportunities were being too constrained already. County officials only expressed their concerns about any kind of wild or scenic designation.

To be sure, the same factors which make it unlikely that the Flaming Gorge creeks will ever be developed also reduce the need for special designation. Nevertheless, the inability of local politicians even to think about the potential for tradeoffs was disturbing. With Nature and wildness as threatened as they are, one might expect at least a minimal showing of environmental concern. I personally wasn't treated badly, but I fear for Nature.


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