Proving that on-the-ground reality plays little role in decision-making when off-road vehicle (ORV) interests are involved, the BLM’s Richfield field office recently proposed opening a long-impassible route located to the west of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA) and within Greater Canyonlands.
The BLM proposes opening the Big Ridge/
North Hatch Canyon Dugway to ORVs
despite the fact that rockfall has made it impassable
for decades. Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.
The route, which runs from the bottom of North Hatch Canyon to the top of Big Ridge, is nothing more than a narrow and steep dugway blocked by extensive rockfall. Due to the rockfall, the route has been impassable for at least 30 years. In addition, this route is unnecessary for transportation as ORV users can already access Big Ridge by way of the Glen Canyon NRA — it’s just less convenient for them.
That this impassable route was actually designated “open” in the Richfield BLM’s 2008 Resource Management Plan and Travel Plan (RMP/TP) speaks volumes about the flawed nature of these Bush-era planning decisions. In fact, the route didn’t appear in any of the alternatives laid out in the draft plan and was only included at the very end of the process, in what appears to be little more than a favor to a few ORV users. SUWA is currently challenging the plan in federal court, with argument in the case set for this summer. What’s clear is that if the RMP/TP decisions had complied with existing federal regulations, this route would have never been designated open to motorized use in the first place.
Please tell the BLM that the natural and cultural resource impacts resulting from opening a route that has been impassable for the last 30 years is unacceptable. It is not the BLM’s job to create convenient passageways for ORV users when natural processes have effectively blocked and reclaimed the route for over three decades. If anything, the agency should be considering ways to remove the route from its designated motorized route system.
At the absolute minimum, the BLM should wait for a legal decision on the pending RMP/TP litigation before committing the significant public time and resources necessary to conduct the environmental analysis, cultural resource surveys and physical work necessary to make this route passable.