ROOSEVELT Hunters, loggers, cattle grazers, recreationists, picnickers and others who are concerned with the potential sale of Tabby Mountain can relax for now. It doesn't look as if the popular recreation spot will be sold, in whole or in part in the near future.
After almost two years of public input and discussion that centered on the possible impacts of selling the prime hunting ground for a commercial venture, the Board of Trustees of the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) heard last week that now is not the time for such a move.
Laurel Brown, a State Board of Education specialist who works with SITLA, said right before the board took its stand, "This point in time is not the time for this parcel to be sold. This is unique, it cannot be replicated."
Brown and some of the others who weighed in on the discussion agreed that the 28,000 acres of school-trust lands, almost evenly spread between Duchesne and Wasatch counties, "will only increase in value over the next few years."
SITLA, a quasi-state agency that manages school-trust lands throughout Utah to provide revenue for public education, oversees the school-trust lands on Tabby Mountain.
SITLA board members paid a visit to the property last week, guided by ranchers and loggers. The trust lands are surrounded by private ranches and subdivisions, and by wilderness owned by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.
SITLA should prepare a management plan for the prime hunting and recreational lands on Tabby Mountain, said Kay Burton, SITLA resource planner. "There is some pressure on us to study it further and come out with a management direction that says, 'This is what we think will happen.' " He recommended a detailed management plan.
"We need to look at more than money. What about forest health? What about watershed? What about cell towers?" he said. "This affects many people in many different ways. We need to be cautious and prudent."
Duchesne County rancher Lanny Young, a fifth-generation cattleman who holds grazing permits on the mountain, offered his ideas for management.
"The integrity of this piece of property is pretty unique. It is unmatched in this whole state," said Young.
He told the board that he recently applied for funding through the Natural Resource Conservation Service to improve the range on Tabby Mountain. The grant money would pay for improved fencing, water, dust control and seeding, he said.
SITLA board chairman James Lee said the board still wants public input on the future of Tabby Mountain. He clarified that accepting applications for bids does not mean the the board is heading toward an inevitable sale of the land.
"The purpose was to take a close look to see what we could do, which might include selling, but that wasn't what it was meant to do," said Lee. The controversy "was a misunderstanding that it was our intent to sell it."
Duchesne County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Irene Hansen encouraged the board to look at other means of using the mountain acreage for a profit and spoke against a possible sale.
"It has so many unique opportunities to enhance revenue for the Trust," she said. "I do think that SITLA would look back in 10 to 15 years and be sorry that it sold that."Burton said he anticipates beginning management-strategy discussions in August, when the board will hold its monthly meeting in Wasatch County, at the invitation of the Wasatch County Commission.
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