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Mr. HANSEN. And I do not know how the Air Force could even fly.
Colonel LARKIN. Well, if we just look at this training range and try to make our overflights, we would be unable to. To my understanding, there is basically 100 million acres worth of this type of property, and we overfly approximately 10 million of that right now without impact.
Mr. HANSEN. Does the Air Force know of any studies where you feel it would be detrimental to wildlife?
Colonel LARKIN. No, sir, I do not. I do not know if the Air Force does. I can take that back for the record.
Mr. HANSEN. What about to domestic animals: cows, sheep, goats?
Colonel LARKIN. Again, I am not aware of any of those studies. I know studies have been done, but I do not know them off the top of my head, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. I thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you, both of you, for your testimony today. Mr. HEFLEY. We will go to the next panel: Mr. John Harja, manager of legal analysis for the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget in the State of Utah; Mr. Larry Young, executive director of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
Mr. Harja, do you want to start?
STATEMENT OF JOHN HARJA, MANAGER OF LEGAL ANALYSIS, GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF PLANNING AND BUDGET, STATE OF
Mr. HARJA. I would be happy to.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to talk today about H.R. 2488. To get started, I would like to explain a little bit about a discrepancy involving some acreage. Mr. Hansen had asked the state to put together a map and calculate the acreage for this area that he proposed. This same area had been the subject of a study by the State of Utah in the previous administration, Mr. Babbitt, and that proposal had included 37,000 acres. That was a proposal; it was no more than that, and it came to the Congress, and it underwent some scrutiny and ultimately did not proceed.
However, as part of that proposal, Mr. Hansen indicated that he would like to propose some changes. The result of all of that was a little SNAFU where we got the wrong map and, in fact, we should have told him originally that 23,000 acres were included in his proposal, which is what is shown on that map to my left. That is the reason there was a discrepancy. It was a SNAFU by the State of Utah, and Mr. Hansen, we take responsibility for that.
The state would support wilderness in this area if our concerns are met, and those concerns concern water rights, wildlife rights and who manages wildlife, the Air Force as was just discussed, discontinuing the planning process for the area, no buffer zones, continuation of grazing rights, and assorted other goodies.
We spent a fair amount of time, we being the State of Utah and the Department of the Interior under the previous administration spent a fair amount of time out in this area. We looked at the mountain range; we looked at the lands nearby. We looked at
manageable boundaries; we looked at who owns the land. You will see a lot of white on that map. That is privately-owned land. We actually looked into the State of Nevada at Pilot Peak itself, which is the highest point of the range.
And it would certainly make sense to include Pilot Peak, but it is in the State of Nevada, and it is our position that the Governor of Nevada should be proposing that. In addition, the land is still the checkerboard that you can see on that map. The checkerboard was caused by the transcontinental railroad grant. It was the reason that Pilot Range was not included in the first round of BLM. BLM acquired all of the land inside the Utah portion but has not acquired in Nevada, and so, you have got the checkerboard problem there.
But more importantly, in Utah, I would like to spend a little time talking about water and wildlife. Water is allocated out of the Pilot Range. This is an isolated range that rises from the basic 5,000foot level of the Great Salt Lake up to about 10,000-plus. It is an isolated range surrounded by sagebrush. As Mother Nature intended, rain and snow falls on the mountain and then, in the spring, flows away. That water is diverted in springs, some of which are fairly high on the mountain, and brought by aqueduct and pipeline to various sources.
To the north, the water was originally, a long time ago, allocated to the railroad. It was used in the steam engines, and it is now allocated for wildlife and is used in the area of Lucen, Utah, for bird habitat for the migratory bird treaties of the United States of America. To the south, a lot of the water is diverted for endangered fish use; the lahonton cutthroat trout, I will talk about in a minute; and to the City of Wendover, which is apparently going to move, as I understand it, Mr. Hansen.
To the south, the lahonton cutthroat trout were proposed for and added to the threatened list. At the request of the Federal Government, our wildlife folks looked and, quote, found lahonton cutthroat trout in a pond in Donner Creek, which is at the southern end. Donner Creek is named after the Donner party, who moved through the area.
And they were moved to Bettridge Creek and another creek in the southern part of this area. They were not native to the area. They were found there; were probably put there by people, and they then were moved again. An ACEC has been put together, an area of critical environmental concern, to help manage that, and that is working very well.
There are some lahonton cutthroat trout in a pond at this private ranch that was mentioned, and those are kept there with permission and on purpose, and they are used to harvest eggs to try to recover the species.
In terms of wildlife folks, we have a number of concerns, the state. The state uses aircraft for a couple of purposes, and we go into this area with permission of the Air Force. They are used to count sheep, bighorn sheep, which have been reintroduced in the area. They are used to count deer and elk and such. They are also used to thin out the herds when necessary.
Fire is an important tool, either fire or vegetation manipulation. This area, when it burns, tends to open up. However, when it does
burn, it also introduces invasive species such as cheat grass, and that causes problems with sage grouse, an assumed to be at least a species that may be considered for listing, if I can get it right. We are also concerned about predators and access, predator control, that is.
In terms of water, this range does have its own water. It flows out. The State of Utah is concerned about language that would reserve water rights. The Department and the state did agree on the language that is in this bill. In relevant part, it is the same language that was in House Resolution 3035 last Congress.
The point is that the water rights are protected, and we do not need a reserved water right. The range will get the water it needs and does not need to have a reserved water right, and the State of Utah supports that. We also support the various appendices that are mentioned in terms of grazing and wildlife management. Those reports that are mentioned do allow all of the activities I have mentioned as long as they are compatible with wilderness, and the State of Utah is comfortable with that and believes it ought to be reaffirmed in this bill.
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I will answer questions. [The prepared statement of Mr. Harja follows:]
Statement of John A. Harja, Manager of Legal Analysis, Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, State of Utah
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the opportunity to speak briefly about the provisions of H.R. 2488, a bill to designate certain lands in the Pilot Range in the State of Utah as wilderness.
The area proposed for designation is a desert mountain range in the Great Basin geographical region of Utah. The range culminates in a 10,000 plus foot peak which is visible for miles across the salt flats adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. The early pioneers traveling to California, including the Donner-Reed party, used the peak as a route marker, hence the name Pilot Peak. Pilot Peak itself is within the State of Nevada, but most of the range is in Utah. At the base of the range is a spring known as Donner Spring; a place where the Donner party stopped to refresh themselves after the hard crossing of the salt flats.
The state of Utah and the Department of the Interior negotiated and assembled a proposal for wilderness designation in the West Desert Region of Utah in 1999. The proposal included 17 different areas aggregating about one million acres of land up and down the western part of Utah. The Department and the State negotiated and dickered over the specific areas to be included in the proposal, and the boundaries of those areas. The two parties also discussed the terms of management for those areas, and reached agreement on some, but not all of those. The state of Utah fully supported the resulting package. That agreement was introduced into the Congress as H.R. 3035 in the 106th Congress, but ultimately did not receive approval. One of the areas proposed for designation in the negotiated proposal was the Pilot Range. The state would again support a bill for the designation of the Pilot Range as wilderness, subject to the bill containing proper language concerning water rights, grazing rights, control and management of fish and wildlife, release of lands not designated, "no-buffer" zones, and, in this particular case, operations of the Air Force in the Utah Test and Training Range.
Normally, I would have included in the list of issues an exchange of the school trust lands within the boundaries of the areas designated as wilderness. However, subsequent to the agreement on the proposed wilderness package in 1999, the Department and the state negotiated an equal value exchange of the trust lands for other BLM lands. This proposed exchange was approved by the Congress, and became P.L. 106-301. I am therefore able to state that the current proposal to designate the Pilot Range as wilderness does not present the difficulty of school trust lands.
The state of Utah is vitally concerned about the effects of wilderness designation on the water allocation process and water rights. Decisions about water rights and allocation are rights reserved by the states, and properly so allocated by federal law. The area proposed for wilderness is a high mountain range rising steeply out of the
flat desert and sage lands immediately around it. That water which flows out of the mountains is allocated to, and diverted for, various uses outside the proposed boundaries, including an allocation to the town of Wendover south of the range. Within the proposed boundaries, the range naturally receives the snow and rainfall necessary for the ecosystem to function. Those natural processes would remain unaffected by the designation of the area as wilderness. The Department and the state recognized this unalterable fact in 1999, and therefore agreed upon the water language in H.R. 3035, which language is duplicated in relevant part in H.R. 2488. The state of Utah supports the water language in Section 2 (h) of H.R. 2488 as drafted.
Similarly, the management of fish and wildlife will remain with the state in the proposed wilderness area. The state manages for many purposes, including the protection of species which may be declining in numbers, and may become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The state needs to be able to be proactive with its management, and be able to manage in a cost-effective manner. This may require aircraft overflights to count herd size, vegetation alteration through prescribed fires, noxious weed treatments in order to encourage native plant growth, reintroduction of animals such as bighorn sheep, or management of cutthroat trout in the streams coming from the mountains. These management techniques can be accomplished "in a manner compatible with the wilderness environment," as provided in the original wilderness act. Appendix B of the Report to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs to accompany H.R. 2750 of the One Hundred First Congress (H. Rept. 101-405) presents further guidance on how fish and wildlife management can be accomplished in a manner compatible with wilderness, and the state of Utah supports the reaffirmation of these principles at this time. The Department and the state agreed to the language on this issue in H.R. 3035, which language is used again in H.R. 2488. The state of Utah supports the language contained in Sections 2(c) and 2(e) of H.R. 2488.
The state of Utah supports the continued use of the land within the wilderness areas by those ranchers who have grazing rights in the area. This is a use specifically authorized by law. House Report 101-405, Appendix A, and section 101(f) of Public Law 101-628 contain further guidance on grazing in wilderness areas, and the state supports reaffirmation of those important principles at this time. The Department and the state agreed to the language in H.R. 3035, which is identical to the language in section 2(g) of H.R. 2488. The state supports the language contained in section 2(g) of H.R. 2488.
The state and the Department entered into the negotiations about a wilderness proposal for the western regions of Utah in order to reach some finality on the issue. Areas which met the criteria for wilderness designation, and which added substantially to the wilderness system were proposed for designation. Other areas, which may have had important functions for the economy, wildlife protection needs, or did not add significantly to the wilderness system were not put forward. One of the major points of the negotiation was the reaffirmation of areas not proposed for designation as multiple-use lands. The state notes that the Pilot Range was not found suitable for protection under section 603(c) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, largely because of the great amount of private land in the range caused by the checkerboard pattern of the transcontinental railroad grant. In the interim between the final statewide recommendation of the Bureau of Land Management for wilderness in Utah, and the 1999 negotiations, the Bureau acquired the private land within the boundaries proposed in the current bill. Therefore, although the land in the Pilot Range was never designated as a section 603(c) "wilderness study area," the area was studied pursuant to the provisions of section 603(c). The area is currently a candidate for study under the process identified by the Federal Register notice of March 18, 1999, although the study process has been placed on hold in the area awaiting the results of an Air Force study. The Department and the state agreed to a cessation of further study of the issue in the H.R. 3035 negotiations, and the current language reflects that agreement. The state of Utah supports the language in Section 3 of H.R. 2488.
The state of Utah also strongly supports the language in Section 4 of H.R. 2488. Many activities occur near the Pilot Range, including an interstate freeway, transcontinental railroad and activities of the military. These activities must be allowed to continue, and the "no-buffer zone" language of H.R. 2488 is designed to insure this is the case.
The state is also very concerned about the effect of wilderness designation upon the activities of the Air Force in the Utah Test and Training Range. The state was adamant in the negotiations concerning the West Desert proposal that wilderness not have an impact on the operations of the Air Force in the UTTR. The UTTR is critical to the operation of Hill Air Force base, and the base is a crucial component
of Utah's economy; one of the largest single employers in the state. I will defer to the Air Force to state its specific requirements for bill language necessary to insure this result.
Thank you again Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to speak. The state looks forward to working with the Committee as the bill moves forward.
Mr. HEFLEY. Mr. Young?
STATEMENT OF LARRY YOUNG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
Mr. YOUNG. Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, my name is Larry Young. I am a native Utahn and executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you today to express our organization's views on H.R. 2488.
I have already submitted written testimony on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Wilderness Society. We in Utah and others across the country support protection of our last remaining wild places in overwhelming numbers. We firmly believe that America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, now sponsored by more than 150 Members of Congress, is the wisest course to adopt with respect to resolving the ongoing debate about how much wilderness to designate in Utah.
Unfortunately, H.R. 2488 does not share this vision. Nonetheless, we would support H.R. 2488 if it protected all lands in the Pilot Range that are included in America's Red Rock Wilderness Act and if it included clean management language. H.R. 2488 fails on both counts.
For example, it would protect less than half of the remaining wilderness within the Pilot Range in Utah. When H.R. 2488 was introduced on July 12, it proposed to designate 37,000 acres of wilderness, but it already has been rolled back from this truncated wilderness proposal to the current inadequate 22,000 to 24,000 acres, even though Representative Hansen introduced last year a 37,000-acre Pilot Range Wilderness as part of H.R. 3035.
Yet now, Members of Congress are being asked to eliminate some 15,000 acres of wilderness and to make an unprecedented Congressional finding that these lands previously proposed as wilderness by the bill's sponsor and identified by the BLM as having wilderness characteristics are nonsuitable for wilderness designation.
This nonsuitability language goes far beyond anything Congress has ever before enacted into law. It is hard release language that seeks to halt the wilderness study planning process that is currently underway, and it seeks to blacklist deserving wild lands from future wilderness designation. It goes on to release wilderness study areas established under authority of Section 603(c) of FLPMA, even though there are no wilderness study areas in the Pilot Range. The inclusion of language in H.R. 2488 referring to nonexistent WSAS illustrates the sponsor's intent to use it as a template for future bills that would compromise genuine wilderness protection.
We also have serious concerns with the military use language in Section 2(f). To date, Congress has passed more than 100 wilderness bills. All but two have been silent with respect to military use. The two that included language related to military use: the Arizona