BLM Views Arch Canyon through Road-Colored Glasses

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The washed out route.
Photo by Liz Thomas/SUWA

With its clear, spring-fed perennial stream, its ancient cultural rock art and cliff dwellings, and its magnificent scenery, Arch Canyon is an exceptional place. Unfortunately, the BLM sees nothing there but a route for motorized recreation; all the other resources are forfeit to that single, destructive use.

We’ve repeatedly asked the BLM to close the route. So have the Hopi Tribe and the Utah Navajo Commission. We have engaged scientists to survey and inventory the route. They’ve concluded that off-road vehicle use increases the risk of damage and vandalism to the archaeological sites and is the primary cause of negative impacts to the riparian system.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, the BLM claims that the 8-mile ORV route, which crosses the stream 120 times during the round trip, doesn’t hurt a thing. The BLM’s position is perfectly aligned with San Juan County’s (where motor vehicle routes are considered a birthright).

Recently, the BLM proposed to reroute a half-mile of the ORV route near the mouth of the canyon, claiming that it “is necessary because the existing road segment becomes impassable after heavy flooding.”  No surprise there — after all, it’s in a floodplain!

The choice between allowing San Juan County to gouge a new route in the canyon, versus allowing the county to reconstruct the washed out section of the route is a bogus one. Neither will protect the canyon’s resources.  Despite the agency’s history of taking orders from San Juan County, we are asking the BLM to select the only sane option: Close the 8-mile route.  We’re waiting for a response.

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