Shortly before we went to press, and in a surprise move, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Richfield field office opened 5,400 acres of public land surrounding Utah’s remarkable Factory Butte to unfettered cross-country off-road vehicle (ORV) use. The BLM announced its decision just before the busy Memorial Day weekend and without any advance notice or opportunity for public comment.
The agency’s decision reversed its 2006 closure of the area to unchecked ORV use. That closure responded to SUWA’s 2005 petition to protect Factory Butte from this exact kind of threat. When the BLM implemented the 2006 closure it explained that “Factory Butte itself is an iconic formation, highly visible from Highway 24 and is often photographed.”
Longtime SUWA members will recall that protecting Factory Butte was a major fight in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. The closure of the area to ORV abuse in 2006 gave the land a much-needed chance to recover. The BLM’s decision to lift the closure will allow one of Utah’s most recognizable landscapes to be defaced and damaged for years to come.
Contrary to popular myth and the agency’s repeated misrepresentations, these tracks don’t simply disappear after the next rain. Photographs taken after historic flooding still show extensive ruts across the landscape.
Look for updates on this unfolding issue online at suwa.org or in the next issue of Redrock Wilderness.
(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, summer 2019 issue)