Happy Holidays from the volunteers and staff of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance!
Our Stewardship Team works to foster a stewardship ethic and promote service as recreation in Utah through opportunities to work directly and actively to preserve and enhance the wilderness character of our public lands. This is accomplished through hands-on service projects supporting state and federal land managers in their efforts to enhance resilience and protect Utah’s wild lands from diverse impacts.
Thank you for another year of collaboration! Our partnerships with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) field offices across Utah continue to support the priority needs of land management, with an emphasis on wilderness-quality lands preservation, cultural and archaeological resource protections, habitat preservation, and overall ecosystem health. Alongside the BLM we’ve accomplished a lot together through eight seasons of stewardship.
We’ll be announcing our 2024 Stewardship Season on Feb 1, 2024— be on the lookout for a special email and make sure you’re following SUWA on social media.
Every year is different as we work to respond to the highest priorities of individual BLM Field Offices. In 2023 we prioritized projects in national monuments, splitting roughly 1/3 of our projects between Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Additionally, we again supported Emery County wilderness lands management, returning to both the Mexican Mountain and Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness units. We worked with the BLM Fillmore Office in the House and Deep Creek Mountain ranges and with the BLM Moab Office at a variety of recreation-impacted locations in Grand County. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of our work:
Stewardship Field Highlights
Emery County Wilderness
Multiple volunteer crews returned to wilderness lands in Emery County this year, including the Mexican Mountain Wilderness and Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness units. We were excited to see that much of our work of the past several years has held (primarily managing ORV travel and dispersed camping). Alongside BLM rangers, we performed general upkeep while transitioning to deeper project work.
On our trip in the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness unit, volunteers disassembled, hand-carried and reinstalled a 25-year-old fence previously built on the boundary of the former Wilderness Study Area (WSA). This new fence was placed along the new wilderness boundary to serve as marker and trailhead access point for hiking and horse travel. It was an exceptionally labor-intensive process team-carrying full-length posts and rails across the slickrock – and our volunteers were rewarded by a homecooked dinner and exceptional views framed by evening rainbows.
In an effort to support the Grand Staircase Escalante Partnership’s growing stewardship program, we collaborated for a second year in a row, providing expertise and resources to conduct a volunteer opportunity along Hole-in-the-Rock Road during which volunteers managed ORV travel and dispersed camping. With experience under our belts, we will continue to support other volunteer groups dedicated to working with BLM land managers across Utah.
Kanab & Moab
The images above showcase projects with the BLM Moab and the BLM Kanab Offices. With the Moab Office we conducted our annual March clean-up project working with a group of University of Utah Alternative Break students. Such students are often eligible for our Stewardship Scholar Program, which is offered to BIPOC students enrolled at least half-time in an accredited college, university, vocational school, or technical school in Utah. We anticipate the growth of this program in 2024.
The images featuring graffiti clean-up were taken during a three-day project in partnership with BLM rangers in Kanab with whom we worked for the first time in 2023. We look forward to again joining these excellent land managers in the years to come as we continue to support wilderness-quality land management in all regions of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
We returned to the magnificent ranges of the West Desert this year, prioritizing the House Range (specifically Notch Peak and the Amasa Basin) and the Deep Creek Mountains. Continuing our ORV travel management in the House Range, we completed building three planned short lengths of buck and rail fence designed to establish parking turnarounds and trailheads at the boundary of existing WSAs. It was no small lift lugging the materials up deteriorating four-wheel routes, but our volunteers made quick work of the effort, using primarily manual hand tools (hand saws, sledgehammers and galvanized nails) to assemble several hundred feet of fence. We will return in 2024 to assess the status and repair needs – if any – of the infrastructure.
We also returned to Tom’s Canyon in the Deep Creek Mountains to repair several hundred feet of buck and rail fence that had been toppled by winter snow load since completion three years ago. Many hands made for quick work, which allowed us the opportunity to clean campsites elsewhere in the range.
Bears Ear National Monument & Dirty Devil
From backpacking into the Dark Canyon Wilderness to work on natural spring protection to remediating hill climbs in the badlands outside of Hanksville along the Dirty Devil River and in Poison Spring Canyon, our crews continue to travel far and wide to carry heavy things in remote places. All joking aside, this is essential work. Over the years we have learned the necessity of naturalization – which often involves raking tracks and strategically placing natural materials such as logs and boulders to manage travel. The more and better we visually restore landscapes, the less likely future impacts will occur. This will continue to be key to our work in the coming decades.
Thank you once again for your continued partnership. In 2024 our program will hire additional staff to increase capacity and we look forward to growing and expanding our partnerships in the coming years. We’ll be announcing our 2024 Stewardship Season on Feb 1, 2024—be on lookout for a special email and make sure you’re following SUWA on social media. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about our work and program!