‘This is a powerful tool’: County adopts land use plan following local input

ST. GEORGE – After two years of crafting, a countywide resource management plan was adopted by the Washington County Commission Tuesday. The plan outlines the county’s plans and preferences for land use and access and also gives federal agencies a better understanding of what their local partners want.

File – Area around the Black Rock exit of I-15, Washington County, Utah, Dec. 5, 2015 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

“The state Legislature, in 2015, asked the counties to write a resource management plan that would help guide county decision making, particularly when it comes to natural resources,” Deputy Washington County Attorney Celeste Maloy said during the County Commission meeting Tuesday.

The county has been “actively engaged” in writing the plan for the last two years and seeking public input along the way, Maloy said.

The deadline for the state’s 29 counties to have resource management plans adopted is Aug. 1, Maloy said. Once all the plans are adopted, the state will use them as the groundwork of a statewide land use plan, she said.

The county’s plan contains 26 sections and covers expected areas such as land use and land access, as well as sections related to air and water quality, grazing, mining, wildlife, agriculture and more.

Draft versions of each section are available for view on the Washington County website here.

The county’s resource management plan was written by Maloy, and she stressed the county has sought extensive public comment over the last two years.

“We’ve tried to make sure everyone is aware,” Maloy said.

While the plan has been adopted, county officials plan to continually update the document.

“There are so many times a government entity or county will go through a robust planning process only to put in on the shelf,” Washington County Commission Victor Iverson said.

It’s so important this document be kept up to date and reflect the values of the county,” he said.

Maloy said the county’s land use plan will help give the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies a much better idea of how the locals would like to see the public land used and managed.

Under the Federal Land Policy Management Act, Maloy said, federal agencies are required to coordinate planning processes with local partners. That’s not always easy to do when the locals don’t have a plan to consult beforehand.

“A lot of the time local governments don’t have plans (the federal agencies) can be consistent with,” she said. “So if we have resource management plans, it makes us better partners with those agencies … This is a powerful tool for us to have.”

Maloy said she hopes having the plan will improve the current planning process between the federal agencies and county go much smoother as well, especially since the initial introductions of the federal resource management plans two years ago didn’t go over so well with the locals.

“When they have a resource management plan, it helps us identify where they want to take the county,” Christian Venhuizen, of the Bureau of Land Management, said Wednesday. “It provides us with some strong guidelines.”

While the BLM and other federal agencies are to coordinate land use planning efforts with local partners, that cooperation stops short of anything that would be deemed illegal or a violation of federal policy.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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