|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
THE CANYON By Liz Thomas 6&6 Herb COUNTRY McHarg of the Wilderness: We need “at least as much as we have left, maybe more.” Ed Abbey was right-on, and ahead of his time-—definitely ahead of the BLM. The agency, though, is slowly catching up. The process of protecting wild lands in Utah began in 1976 when the BLM was given a mandate to identify and protect all potential wilderness areas. The BLM fell spectacularly short of fulfilling this mandate: out of a total of 23 million acres, BLM claimed that only 3.2 million qualified as wilderness. Since that time, wilderness activists have demonstrated conclusively that there are, in fact, over 9.1 million acres of lands in Utah with wilderness characteristics. In other words, 6 million acres of de facto wilderness, which should have received interim protection, were instead left open to oil wells, new roads, and other developments. The BLM is taking steps to correct this error. They recently completed an inventory of roughly half of the unprotected 6 million acres, identifying an additional 2.6 million acres of land with wilderness character. Public hearings have been held, and the agency is now preparing an Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the consequences of designating the additional 2.6 million acres as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), which will receive interim wilderness protection until such time as Congress takes a definitive vote on official designation . The final decision should be completed in 18 months, at which point Utah could have over two and a half million acres of additional WSAs. Of course, this is not all the wilderness that Utah has left, and the BLM will find much more when it completes an inventory as thorough as the citizens’ and the Utah Wilderness Coalition — but it is a step. Southern WATCHDOG Utah Wilderness signs, fee tubes, and other obstructions. SUWA is monitoring the situation, and will keep you notified, but in the meantime, let us know if you see any suspicious activity while you're hiking in the area. As you may recall, this is not the first time San Juan County has used sheriffs to contest BLM's efforts to protect public lands. In the fall of 1996, County road crews, backed up by sheriff's deputies, brushed aside a BLM officer and scraped a road into the Hart's Point area east of Canyonlands National Park. In doing so, they ignored a cease and desist order prohibiting the road grading. San Juan County based its blading on a claimed RS 2477 right-of-way. The County is now involved in expensive litigation over this obnoxious claim, where the County bears the difficult burden of proof to demonstrate that a public highway was actually constructed over unreserved public lands prior to 1976. The County has not yet provided such evidence, and the BLM has made an administrative determination that the RS 2477 claims are invalid. It appears that San Juan County would rather remain pig-headed and throw away money on needless litigation that could be used for beneficial community projects (including the maintenance of real roads). Hopefully, other counties will accept this as a helpful lesson, and Grand County will continue to avoid adopting a map/position that advances frivolous RS 2477 claims. In fact, this would be the biggest step forward for Utah wilderness in the past decade, but it won’t happen without wilderness supporters voicing their opinions. Anti-wilderness interests will be lobbying hard for as few WSAs Alliance The County appears to have set its sights initially on at least four claimed routes, all of which lie within wilderness study areas that have been closed for nearly twenty years to motorized use. They include three routes (which are either non-existent or reclaimed twotracks) into the Grand Gulch Primitive Area, and one in the Fish and Owl Creek proposed wilderness. area leading to the “Moon House” ruin, an ancient Native American archeological site. So far, the County has not yet taken any action to remove the BLM Liz Thomas sent the Zephyr THIS as possible, and BLM could ultimately photograph of herself, refusing to decide to sacrifice certain areas with wilderness characteristics to oil and gas rigs, mining or other developments. To counteract this, all friends of Utah wilderness should take time to send comments to BLM for the wilderness EIS. Some of the areas which currently lack WSA protection, but which could receive it as a result of this planning process, are reveal her face, because: A. She doesn't want you to hate her because she is beautiful. Labyrinth Canyon, White River, Nokai Dome, Long and Gravel Canyons, Fortknocker Canyon, Fisher Towers, Beaver Creek, Mary Jane Canyon, Goldbar Canyon, Upper Kanab Creek, Comb Ridge, Hatch Canyon, Muddy Creek, Factory Butte, Red Desert, Wild Horse Mesa, Docs Pass, Pilot Range, Silver Island Mountains, Newfoundland Mountains, Beaver Dam Wash, and many others. To ensure the protection of these areas, the BLM must know that wilderness values far B. She is tired of being recognized by Cedar City Cowboys who stop her on the street and say, “Hey outweigh conflicting and detracting oil and gas exploration, off-road vehicles, and other little gal, ain't you that female motorized and development uses. Mining is a destructive use that is inconsistent with wilderness protection, and these areas should be closed to future mining. Wilderness areas eco-freak tryin’ to separate me _ from mah horse?" are important to native wildlife such as mule deer, desert bighorn sheep arid cougars. Further, the boundaries of each unit should reflect the full extent of wilderness character, and the BLM must not ignore adjacent defacto wilderness. Tell the agency that you need at least the entire 2.6 million acres protected as WSAs, and maybe more, for your sense of solitude, primitive recreation opportunities, and your refuge from urban sprawl in a natural environment — Abbey would be proud. The deadline for scoping comments is June 21, 1999, so try to get your comments in before that date — send them even if you're late, as comments submitted during preparation of the EIS will be considered. Address them to: BLM State Office, WSA Planning Project, P.O. Box 45155, Salt Lake City, UT 84145; via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (be sure to include your full name and postal address; via the web at http://www.blm.gov/wilderness/comment.html). For additional information, visit SUWA's web site at: www.suwa.org/wild99/, or call the UWC at (801)486-2872. Grand County is the “Great Hope” of reason in rural Utah politics... On May 3, 1999, Grand County residents of all types gathered in the Council Chambers to state their opinions on whether the County should adopt a new class B and D road claim map. The map was largely prepared using the global positioning system (GPS) information collected by a local off-road vehicle activist, Ber Knight, and depicted everything from foottrails and cow-paths, to seismic lines and two-track trails — totaling approximately 5,000 miles of dead-end red-lines. The result was a graphic that mimicked the blood-shot, groggy and pre-caffeinated morning eyes of a local tavern patron. Members of the community rightly expressed that, regardless of what the map was intended to represent, it would be used as an anti-wilderness tool by right-wing radical over-access groups and the Utah Association of Counties (UAC) to push Grand County into very costly and pointless litigation over RS 2477 right-of-way claims. In fact, UAC wanted the map adopted immediately for use on its anti-wilderness lobby visits to D.C. on May 46. It was refreshing to witness the Council absorb and contemplate the reality that the county residents it represents, including business owners, “wacky environmentalists,” even off-road vehicle enthusiasts, do not want the county to take an anti-wilderness position. The best policy would be to never adopt a San Juan County-style “in your face” road claim map, but rather to use the information as a tool to determine what routes are really necessary for public transportation. The Council wisely chose to table the matter for further consideration, with at least one Council member, Suzanne Mayberry, expressing that such a controversial issue should not be slammed through without much more thoughtful debate. The vote was 4-3, thanks to Mayberry, Schappert, Mcleod, and Ballantyne. Your constituents appreciate your reasonable approach. Keep up the good work! ..while San Juan County continues down the two-track path to destruction. Just as Grand County seems to be advancing into the 21" Century, San Juan County is slipping quickly into the dark ages. San Juan County has recently announced that it intends to use law enforcement officers to forcibly open BLM wilderness study areas, at will, to 4x4s, ATVs, and other vehicles. Such unilateral action would place the County in violation of federal environmental laws and of a court order requiring them to give SUWA, the Sierra Club and the BLM advance notice and an opportunity to seek relief from the court before lands are — — ite C. That IS her face. D. All or none of the above ORVs invade public lands. This spring, like a cloud of killer bees, ORVs are migrating to southern Utah like never before. In the Swell, ORVs are running rampant---even within designated wilderness study areas. Forget having a quite float on the Green River through Labyrinth Canyon, as the dirt bikes and ATVs are buzzing along the banks through the riparian area, down from Spring Canyon Point and up into Hay Joe Canyon. This reckless abandon is happening all over the Labyrinth Rims area, Behind the Rocks, and Poison Spider Mesa. The Moab BLM office will have a new field manager, Maggie Wyatt, sometime around June 1. It would be a good idea to flood her with letters and photos of the damage that's occurring in her new resource area, and hold the agency's feet to the fire on protecting the land. A little south in Indian Creek destruction is constant, and the Comb Wash/Cedar Mesa area is also being targeted. In the Comb Wash Integrated Watershed Plan, the BLM is actually sanctioning blatant abuse by designating two areas as “open” ORV playgrounds — one within the citizens' proposed Arch Canyon unit, and a second that overlaps the San Juan River unit. Ironically, the BLM found the San Juan River unit to possess wilderness character in its recent reinventory. The agency is also allowing travel up Arch Canyon where vehicles will cross the perennial stream channel and rip through riparian vegetation 59 times in eight miles. Although this could certainly impair the stream's suitability for wild and scenic designation, it was not analyzed in the environmental assessment. The Comb Wash Plan does limit travel to “designated roads and trails” — a positive step. The problem is that the BLM is designating routes into current wilderness study areas (WSA), BLM reinventoried wilderness character lands, American cultural sites. and other areas with sensitive Native Furthermore, the map of designated routes looks suspiciously similar to the original San Juan County road claims. Why would the agency try to appease a County that is currently threatening to open other WSAs? Instead, the agency should be taking a stance to protect the resources. At a minimum, the BLM should not allow any ORV activity to occur that would impair the wilderness character of these reinventoried lands until the two-year public participation process is complete (see first article). Please send your letters regarding ORV impacts in the Swell to the BLM Price Field Office, 125 S. 600 W., Price UT 84501, fax(435)636-3657; in the Moab resource area to Maggie Wyatt, BLM 82 E. Dogwood, Moab UT 84532, fax(435)259-2106; and in the San Juan Resource area to Kent Walter, San Juan Resource Area Manager, Bureau of Land Management, P.O. Box 7, Monticello, UT. 84535, fax (435)587-1518. Always send a copy of your letters to the State Director, BLM State Office, 3245 S. State Street, Suite 301, P.O. Box 45155, Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0155, fax(801)539-4013.