Neal Clark, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 2 of 3


  • October 13th, 2015

    The St. George BLM recently released its draft management plan for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs National Conservation Areas (NCAs) and is accepting public comments until November 16th.

    If you care about these areas, now is the time to act.

    As you may recall, the 2009 Washington County public lands bill (i.e., the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009) established the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs—both located in a unique corner of Utah where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert ecosystems meet.  The NCAs were created to “conserve, protect, and enhance . . . the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources” of the designated lands.

    Red Cliffs NCA (Bob Wick)

    Red Cliffs NCA, copyright Bob Wick/BLM.

    Now, anti-conservation voices in Washington County have made it their goal to undermine any effort to protect wildlife and wilderness-quality lands through management of the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs.  They have attacked the BLM for proposing measures to ensure long-term conservation within the NCAs and have attempted to skew reality by arguing that the BLM must designate a highway corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA.

    Please tell the BLM to implement the highest level of protection for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs by November 16th.

    BLM’s Alternative C, the “conservation alternative,” would ensure long-term protection for wildlife and wilderness-quality lands.   These protections include:

    • Prohibiting a right-of-way for a highway corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA (the “Northern Corridor”), which was established for the purpose of protecting the Mojave desert tortoise (a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act).
    • Designating a multispecies wildlife corridor and removing the “open” motorized vehicle designation in the protected area.
    • Managing BLM-identified wilderness-quality lands for the protection of wilderness values.
    • Designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern for threatened, endangered, and at-risk species.
    • Limiting new motorized and non-motorized recreational development.
    • Prohibiting new transmission and pipeline rights-of-way through protected areas.
    • Removing livestock grazing and livestock developments from the Beaver Dam Wash NCA.

    Click here to tell the BLM to prioritize conservation within the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs by implementing the highest level of protection for wildlife and wilderness-quality lands.

  • August 27th, 2015

    The St. George BLM is holding open houses next week for its recently released draft National Conservation Area (NCA) management plan. As you may recall, the 2009 Washington County public lands bill (the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009) created two NCAs near St. George, Utah: the 63,478-acre Beaver Dam Wash NCA and the 44,859-acre Red Cliffs NCA. Both were created to “conserve, protect, and enhance . . . the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources” of the protected lands.

    Beaver Dam Wash (Ray Bloxham)

    Beaver Dam Wash NCA, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Subsequent to NCA designation, the St. George BLM was tasked with developing a comprehensive Resource Management Plan (RMP) that dictates how the lands will be managed in a way that meets the above-stated purpose.

    The public comment period for the RMP began on July 17, 2015 and ends on October 15, 2015. In order to provide information to the public, the BLM will hold three open houses the first week of September in southern Utah and the Wasatch Front. The open house schedule is as follows:

    September 1, 6pm-8pm
    Dixie Center
    1835 Convention Center
    St. George, UT

    September 2, 6pm-8pm
    Hurricane City Office
    147 North 870 West
    Hurricane, UT

    September 3, 6pm-8pm
    Red Lion Hotel
    161 West 600 South
    Salt Lake City, UT

    If you’re concerned about the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs and want to see them properly managed to protect wildlife and wilderness values, please attend one of the above open houses.

    We will send a more detailed alert prior to the October 15, 2015 comment deadline. In the meantime, the draft NCA plan is available for review on the BLM’s website. SUWA supports Alternative C, which is the most protective for wildlands and wildlife.

  • August 24th, 2015

    It’s a sad day for ATV “enthusiasts” in San Juan County and it’s back to the drawing board for the Monticello BLM.

    On August 10, 2015, pursuant to a motion filed by the BLM, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (“Board”) issued an order vacating the BLM’s approval of the Indian Creek ATV trail. The order invalidates the Indian Creek ATV trail and remands the issue back to the agency.

    Instead of defending the validity of the project, as it has done for nearly four years, the BLM finally admitted that its environmental analysis (EA) was illegal and asked the Board to vacate its decision accordingly. Moving forward, the BLM needs to either conduct significant additional analysis of potential adverse impacts from the project, or wisely put this irresponsible idea it to rest once and for all.

    Even in the face of extensive public opposition to the project – in the form of thousands of comments from individual quiet recreationists to the National Park Service – the Monticello BLM has proven itself incapable of standing up to the bully tactics of San Juan County and simply saying “no.” Instead, in a contortion performance that would impress the most seasoned acrobat, the Monticello BLM has revised its project proposal not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times in as many years. It’s simply a level of effort rarely witnessed by those of us who follow the BLM’s actions.

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Crusher Bartlett

    If you recall, we have been fighting this project since the BLM released its first draft analysis in 2011. After the BLM issued its final decision in 2014, SUWA (along with the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) filed an appeal with the Board and obtained a stay that prohibited the BLM from implementing the project pending the Board’s ultimate decision on the appeal.

    It likely goes without saying, but the Monticello BLM has wasted significant public resources in a futile effort to approve an unwise and irresponsible ATV trail. Instead of going back to the drawing board for additional analysis in what is nothing more than an absurd effort to capitulate to the childish wants of ATV-crazed San Juan County, the BLM should once and for all declare this project finished. Dead on (re)arrival. It’s time to stand up to the San Juan County bullies, and stop wasting precious agency time and resources trying to push through a project that is, and has always been, a terrible idea.

  • June 3rd, 2015

    The Interior Board of Land Appeals (“Board”) recently issued an order prohibiting construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail pending appeal. The order – triggered by a “Petition for Stay” filed by SUWA, the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and the Great Old Broads for Wilderness – prohibits construction of 6.4 miles of new ATV trail and three associated parking areas in Indian Creek until the Board rules on the legal merits of our administrative appeal.

    In its ruling, the Board validated our argument that agency actions resulting in a permanent loss of BLM-identified wilderness character lands constitutes “irreparable harm” and determined that there is a “sufficient likelihood of success” on at least a portion of our legal claims.

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Crusher Bartlett

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Indian Creek. Copyright Crusher Bartlett.

    The BLM’s Monticello field office irresponsibly approved construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail in February of 2015 (see our Spring 2015 newsletter, p. 15). Originally proposed by the pro-motorized recreation, anti-conservation leaders of San Juan County, the purpose of the ATV trail is to facilitate increased motorized use in the Indian Creek corridor by linking the proposed trail to an existing ATV trail network. If implemented, the new trail would result in increased ATV use in and near Lavender Canyon, Davis Canyon, and Bridger Jack Mesa – areas bordering Canyonlands National Park that currently see very little motorized recreational use. What’s more, the trail would bisect an area that the BLM itself identified as possessing wilderness characteristics and that is proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    The Indian Creek corridor is the gateway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and is world-renowned for its abundance of cultural resources and quiet recreation opportunities. We are hopeful that the Board will ultimately rule in a manner consistent with protecting this irreplaceable landscape for future generations. We’ll keep you posted.

  • May 28th, 2015

    The BLM’s Monticello Field Office is proposing to allow the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation to guide hiking and handcart treks (reminiscent of early Mormon pioneer journeys) on three routes/trails in the Cedar Mesa area. The BLM’s current alternatives would allow for a maximum of 250 participants per day, pulling handcarts and supported by motor vehicles. Approximately 90% of this activity would occur over a 13-week “high use” period from June 1st to August 31st. Based on recent BLM data, approving any of the proposed alternatives will result in an increase of 90% to 576% above current commercial and organized group use levels.

    Please tell the BLM to protect Cedar Mesa by not approving “guided hiking and handcart treks” for groups of 250 people per day.

    CedarMesaRuin(crop)_RichardBullough

    Cedar Mesa Ruin. Copyright Richard Bullough.

    Although the BLM has considered a number of alternative proposals, all of them would allow total groups sizes of 250 people. For comparison, the Monticello Resource Management Plan currently only allows for a maximum of 12 people per group in all canyons within the Cedar Mesa Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA).

    As for handcart use, the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation itself states that “handcarts were not part of the Hole-in-the-Rock journey.” Therefore, putting the issue of permitted group size aside, the purpose of providing a historical experience can be met without the use of handcarts and the associated additional impacts to natural and cultural resources.

    Cedar Mesa is known for its world-class cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands. The abundance and density of archaeological sites – from intact cliff dwellings to pristine rock art – combined with unparalleled solitude offer visitors a truly unique backcountry experience. This proposal has the potential to vastly change the current character of the Cedar Mesa area by adversely impacting both cultural resources and visitor expectations and experiences.

    Please send your comments to the BLM by May 29, 2015 and tell the agency it must:

    • Consider alternatives that drastically reduce the currently proposed group size of 250 users per day.
    • Consider an alternative that does not allow the use of handcarts by event participants.
    • Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to fully analyze the unprecedented increase in permitted use and the unknown adverse impacts to natural and cultural resources.

    Click here to send your comments now!

    With your help, we can ensure that the BLM takes seriously its obligation to protect cultural resources and the wilderness experience that currently exists on Cedar Mesa. Thank you for your support in protecting this invaluable archaeological and wilderness treasure.

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