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.
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.
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.