September 28, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLM Releases Plan that Finally Protects Labyrinth Canyon and Surrounding Public Lands
New travel plan will balance motorized and non-motorized recreation
Laura Peterson, Staff Attorney, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA); (801) 236-3762 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Grant Stevens, Communications Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA); 319- 427-0260 (email@example.com)
John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper and conservation director at Living Rivers; 435-260-2590 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Salt Lake City, UT – Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a final motorized vehicle travel management plan for the world-renowned Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area near Moab in Grand County, Utah. The new plan will guide land management decisions in this 300,000-acre landscape for years to come. It will help protect cultural sites, riparian habitat, and the experience of non-motorized recreationists while allowing for motorized recreation on more than 800 miles of dirt trails and routes.
“Visitors will finally be able to experience stunning Labyrinth Canyon without the noise, dust, and damage that accompanies motorized recreation,” said Laura Peterson, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). “For too long, the BLM has prioritized off-road vehicle use at the expense of Utah’s incredible natural and cultural resources. The Labyrinth Canyon plan represents an important step forward to guide the management of Utah’s public lands and reduce the impacts of off-road vehicle routes in this area.”
The Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area is home to unmatched quiet recreational opportunities, irreplaceable cultural and historic resources, and important wildlife habitat. It includes the beloved Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River as well as its many side canyons, including Ten Mile, Hell Roaring, Spring, and Mineral Canyons.
Known as a gem of the American West, more than 40 miles of the serene Green River flow through Labyrinth Canyon’s towering redrock canyons. This sublime stretch of river provides a multi-day flatwater wilderness experience that is suitable for families and boaters of all experience levels. The west side of the canyon was designated as Wilderness by Congress in 2019 (scroll to page 93) and the river corridor itself is designated as a Scenic River under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The east side of Labyrinth Canyon has not yet been designated as wilderness, though proposed federal legislation – America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act – would do so.
“I am thrilled that after many hard-fought chapters in the endurance race that is wildlands protection, we are finally safeguarding this incredible canyon. It is a major victory to float down this tranquil stretch of the Green River without the disorienting distraction of motorized access along its banks,” said Jan Holladay Wood (co-owner of Holiday Expeditions). “In 1989 my dad, Dee Holladay, & Holiday Expeditions, first took elected officials on a trip to advocate for protections for Labyrinth Canyon. I know Dad, and all those who fought for this who are no longer with us today, would be proud.”
There are more than 200,000 off-road vehicles (ORVs) registered in Utah, including dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and side-by-sides (also known as UTVs). That number does not include ORVs trailered in from other states. New ORVs are faster, louder, and more capable of reaching into remote areas than ever before. Labyrinth Canyon is no exception: the area has seen a dramatic increase in motorized recreation over the past decade, with ORV noise and dust disproportionately impacting the majority of public land users.
Federal law requires that when designating motorized vehicle routes the BLM minimize the impacts of that decision to natural and cultural resources. This includes minimizing damage to soils, watersheds, vegetation, wildlife habitat, and cultural sites; minimizing the harassment of wildlife as well as conflicts between different public land user groups; and minimizing impacts of motorized vehicle routes on wilderness values like naturalness and solitude.
The new travel plan will have a long-lasting impact on the area by determining where ORVs are allowed to travel and what places will be managed for the protection of other resources and values including wildlife, solitude, and non-motorized recreation.
“I applaud BLM for today’s decision which protects the rim country of the Green River and Labyrinth Canyon from the damaging impacts of off-road vehicles,” said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper and conservation director of Living Rivers in Moab, Utah. “This stretch of the Green River has two sensitive ecosystems: the River gorge itself and its tributaries. The unique geography and micro-climate of the River and tributaries provide hours of natural shade that minimizes evaporation from the river; the sand and gravel along the river bottoms store water for riparian plants, which provide a food web to support native species and migrating birds. These ecosystems also serve as critical, natural infrastructure that fuels regeneration after increasing floods, droughts, and fires. This is the right decision to reasonably regulate motorized vehicles and keep them out of the most sensitive areas.”
The Labyrinth Canyon travel plan is one of 11 travel plans the BLM is completing over the next few years as part of a court-supervised settlement agreement with conservation and ORV groups. Covering more than 6 million acres of BLM-managed lands in eastern and southern Utah, these plans will determine where motorized vehicles will be allowed on some of Utah’s wildest public lands. To date, the BLM has completed two of the 11 plans and is currently working on plans for some of Utah’s most beloved landscapes, including the San Rafael Swell and the Henry Mountains. Read more about SUWA’s litigation to ensure these travel plans follow federal laws to protect public lands and resources.
Background Information & Resources:
- Labyrinth Canyon Media Resources
- Storymap on the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan
- SUWA webpage on Travel Plans and Off-Road Vehicles
- 2-minute video: “The BLM is Planning the Future of Utah Wilderness”
- Wild Utah Podcast, Episode 34: Access Not Excess