Approximately fifty residents of the Stewart Trail area met at the Etna Civic Center Feb 2 to prepare for the February 11 meeting with Lincoln County Commissioners and Y2 Consultants.
There was a lot of flannel, work boots, and denim in the crowd. One young girl knelt quietly by her father throughout the entire meeting. Two women hugged as they greeted each other. The first apologized: she had been out riding her horse just before the meeting.
The men had the appearance they could heft an ax or a chain-saw as easily as an executive lifts a portfolio. One was a hunting guide. The room was chilly, but no one left.
A couple led the group in a relaxed, but informative discussion about Recreation and Public Purpose leases on public lands, a bit of history of the Stewart Trail area, and tried to understand what elements of the proposal residents could agree on.
Several of the group had called the BLM office in Kemmerer and discovered that Lincoln County holds the patent (title) on the area. When asked what requirements the BLM would have for the area, the representative explained that “once the county held the patent, they weren’t concerned about inspecting to make sure the ‘plan of operation’ was being followed.” They would leave that to the county. BLM was definitely not requiring all the elements of the plan.
People were thoughtful, calm and respectful in their comments, but wondered why the county had proposed such a laundry list of “improvements” to the Stewart Trail area. As near as anyone knew, no one from the Stewart Trail area or Nordik Ranches had been on the steering committee the county put together in the early part of the process.
The group wondered why this development? Why now? Is there a need? Did the county hope to profit from fees charged? One participant wryly noted, “So they’re going to use our tax money to develop this land, and then charge us to use it.” One woman had read the entire county management plan, several hundred pages, and was convinced it was for economic purposes. She referred to page 135, where the county plan emphasized economic development goals.
The group was clearly, unanimously, for a very minimal amount of development. No one objected to the current uses of snowmobiling, hunting or equestrian use, which are not specifically mentioned in the proposal.
The group voted on the elements proposed in the plan to see where everyone stood. RV Park, unanimous no. Group campsites, unanimous no. Individual campsites——no again. Venue for gatherings with a kitchen, no. When it got down to the less-intrusive items like a gravel parking place, or an information kiosk, the group was mixed, but quite a few members of the group were against even that.
One member of the group referred to Commissioner Jerry Hansen’s interview with SVI radio where he says, “It’s a matter of planning for just about whatever would logically fit or work on the property. Even if it wouldn’t necessarily ever come to fruition.”
The group facilitator wondered to the group, “Why put a laundry list of things in the plan if you don’t really ever intend to do it? The BLM clearly allows for the plan to be amended later if the county needs to add elements to it.” It’s an open question whether the county can afford to complete the elements on the plan. “There’s a trust issue here.”
The couple leading the discussion explained the format of the Feb 11 meeting in Alpine. One participant said, “Oh, that’s the Delphi technique. They use it to diffuse opinions and direct the meeting toward a preset conclusion. They have you sit at separate tables to avoid crosstalk.”
One man in the crowd seemed confused and asked, “You mean we’re going to go to a meeting, but we don’t actually get to talk and say what we think?”
Commissioner Hansen, referring to the federal government, commented as he was sworn in recently, “I think, frankly, we’re headed back to another era of war on the West. Anything we can do to preserve our way of life is going to be crucial.”
One participant wondered how Stewart Trail was any different from federal intrusion——just on a local level.
A request to the commissioners for comment on Tuesday was not immediately returned.
Interested citizens may access the public open house via ZOOM at:
https://zoom.us/j/92570561634?pwd=YVlvanlTeDEzYzVKdEF2LzZWNVYvUT09 Use Meeting ID: 925 7056 1634 and Passcode: 402799, or call in at 1 (253) 215-8782
Lincoln County will receive public comments through February 25th.