The Cache County Council held a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss proposed changes to the designations of US forests service lands in Cache County.
The proposed changes would make it possible for the US Forest Service to build temporary roads through designated roadless areas for the purpose of forest management, including thinning forests to prevent large forest fires in the future.
The changes were proposed by Governor Gary Herbert in a petition to the US Department of Agriculture and could affect more than 175,000 acres in Cache County, and over 4 million acres across Utah. The governor is soliciting recommendations from each affected county council on how best to manage roads within the counties.
Members of several recreational organizations, including the Backcountry Horseman of America, Trout Unlimited, the Wilderness Society and Nordic United spoke out against the proposed changes.
David Rosenberg spoke on behalf of Nordic United.
“The main point I want to make is that we already have a lot of roads in the county, and a lot of roads in these so-called roadless areas,” he said.
Those opposed to the plans noted that most forest fires in Utah occur near the wildland-urban interface, far from the roadless areas where the changes are proposed. In fact, opponents claim that increased logging is more likely to cause wildfires than prevent them since most wildfires are caused by human activities. Additionally, concerns were voiced about impacts to wildlife and introduction of noxious weeds into the protected areas.
Two groups, including the Utah Snowmobile Association, spoke in favor of the petition. Both supported the petition in hopes that additional roads will provide increased access to public lands for both motorized and non-motorized use, though this would not be the intended purpose of the roads.