Wasatch County officials are saying "yes," while wildlife officials and organizations are responding with a firm "no" to a proposed new landfill near Wallsburg.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources director Bill Geer said if the county is successful in gaining title to about 100 acres for the garbage dump, the state could lose $2.7 million in annual wildlife payments, "as well as some of the most important deer and elk winter range we have. The loss (f the land) would seriously damage our deer and elk herds in the area."Wasatch County commissioner Larry Duke responded by saying the DWR claims are "a bunch of baloney."
The Heber City Council ordered the Wasatch County Commission to find a new county sanitary landfill site by June 30. The pres-ent dump is near the Heber airport. For the city to expand the airport, the dump has to be moved.
The commission considered four proposed sites. The site the county wants is an area near Wallsburg called the Allen property.
That property, said Geer, was purchased with Pittman-Robertson federal aid money.
"Under federal regulations," added Geer, "the loss of federal aid property by the principal state wildlife management agency would lead to disqualifications from future federal aid.
"In this case, since the loss of control would occur on a P-R federal project, the loss to the division would be $2.7 million annually in P-R federal aid funds. A loss like this would cut the division's game management operational budget in half, and would eliminate nearly half of our professional staff in big game, small game and waterfowl."
Duke believes the DWR could get around the restriction "if they wanted to."
"If I did," continued Geer, "I'd be guilty of malfeasance in office. Besides that, I would violate my own personal and professional ethics, and would lose the trust of the sporting public. I just won't do that."
Homer Stapley, who recently retired as administrative assistant to Geer and now works with the Utah Wildlife Leadership Coalition, said the division has been put under a lot of "political pressure from high sources" to give up the land.
"I worked to get that property way back in the 1950s and 1960s. We acquired that property because it was so vital as winter range to deer and elk. They're talking about 100 acres, yes, but the activities associated with a dump like that would effect 100 times that much area."
The property is low, open ridge and gentle slopes that provides winter forage for a resident herd of about 316 elk, along with a large deer herd. The location of the property has created an important buffer for wildlife from human disturbance.
In addition to that, the DWR has invested $442,000 in range rehabilitation on the Allen site, making the property even more valuable as winter habitat.
A second site selected by the commission is in the mouth of Big Hollow on the north boundary of the Walls-burg property. This section also includes a public shooting range. The third site is a piece of property owned by the Division of Parks and Recreation near the upper west end of Deer Creek, which the DPR isn't interested in giving up. And, the last site is a section of Bureau of Reclamation land that is scheduled to be transferred in fee title to the DWR for management, according to a Central Utah Project plan.
Stapley said, however, there were other sites in the area, "and I don't know why they're so intent on the Allen property."
Of the four sites, Geer said the Allen property is the least acceptable because of the adverse impact on big game.
He did say, however, that under certain conditions an agreement could be worked out for the Big Hollow site.
"But, certain special conditions would have to be met. If they weren't, then that piece of property would also be unavailable."