Conservationists Ask Obama Administration to Begin Discussion on Future of Greater Canyonlands

For Immediate Release: July 8, 2011

Marion Klaus, Chair of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, 801-467-2946
Deeda Seed, Grassroots Outreach Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-803-9892
Bobby McEnaney, Land Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-289-2429

Conservationists Ask Obama Administration to Begin Discussion on Future of Greater Canyonlands
Coalition requests public process to address BLM lands surrounding Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Salt Lake City — The Greater Canyonlands Coalition — whose members including the Grand Canyon Trust, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), and the Sierra Club — yesterday submitted a letter to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Robert Abbey formally requesting that the BLM initiate a public process to address the future protection and management needs of the Greater Canyonlands region, a 1.4 million acre area of BLM land surrounding Canyonlands National Park in Southeastern Utah.

The Greater Canyonlands region is a landscape of stunning plateaus and unique geologic formations, 10,000 year old archeological sites, and unmatched natural beauty — including iconic Utah landmarks such as Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, White Canyon, Fiddler Butte, Robbers Roost, Lockhart Basin and the Dirty Devil River. In recent years it has been subject to an explosion in Off Road Vehicle (ORV) use that poses an immediate threat to archeological sites, riparian areas and sensitive fish and wildlife habitat.

To protect these scenic landscapes, Thursday’s letter follows up on the March 16, 2011 petition filed with the Department of Interior under the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution, requesting that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar temporarily suspend ORV use on 1,050 miles of designated ORV routes in specific sensitive habitat areas, such as in streams, wetlands, riparian areas, archaeological sites and other vulnerable areas until it can conduct further studies on the impacts of the activity and determine whether it is, in fact, a sustainable use. The petition’s proposal would leave open 1,400 miles of ORV route within the petition area, and about 13,000 miles of routes open in the four BLM field offices surrounding Greater Canyonlands.

“Greater Canyonlands is stunningly beautiful country, rich in archeological treasures and biological wonders,” said Marion Klaus, Chair of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It’s under a number of immediate and destructive threats, most notably damage by irresponsible ORV use. It needs protection now to preserve these unique natural resources for future generations to enjoy, explore, and understand.”

In the letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey, the coalition writes that “public involvement is a crucial step in the consideration of the Greater Canyonlands Petition” and encourages “hearings in Utah and in a handful of population centers in the Rocky Mountains… to bring diverse and balanced perspectives to an issue of importance to all Americans whose inheritance includes these public lands.”

“The time has come to have a public conversation about the future of Greater Canyonlands,” said Grand Canyon Trust Executive Director Bill Hedden. “A public process will encourage the type of discussion about Utah’s public lands that the administration sought in the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.”

“The Greater Canyonlands region is extraordinary; it is the heart of the Colorado Plateau,” said David Nimkin, Southwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Off road vehicle abuses in this fragile landscape threaten the national park and the larger landscape. BLM needs to take an active role in finding a balance for this activity, and beginning a public process to discuss the future of Greater Canyonlands is the right place to start.”

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