Help Protect Utah’s New Wilderness and National Conservation Areas

The Watchman (large)
The Watchman in Washington County, copyright David Pett

Three distinct life zones come together in Utah’s southwestern corner — the Colorado Plateau, the Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin — resulting in lands that are among the most diverse and sensitive in all of Utah.  Just over a year ago, Congress passed legislation to protect 180,000 acres of these public lands in Washington County; some lands were designated wilderness and others were included in National Conservation Areas.

The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 was a huge step toward preserving spectacular Mojave Desert ecosystem in Utah — with its striking Joshua trees and threatened desert tortoise — as well as the redrock canyons and plateaus on the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, and the higher elevation peaks of the Great Basin region.

But the legislation was just the first step.  Now the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing plans to manage these places — some of the very first BLM-managed wilderness areas and National Conservation Areas (NCAs) in Utah — and you can help ensure that the agency does the job right.

During this planning process, BLM will:

  1. Amend the 1999 St. George Resource Management Plan (RMP) to address off-road vehicle designations, designate Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), evaluate wilderness character of lands not designated as wilderness in the Omnibus legislation, and address other public land management issues such as “recreation zones” and Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMAs),
  2. Prepare an off-road vehicle Transportation and Travel Management Plan, and
  3. Prepare Resource Management Plans for Beaver Dam Wash NCA and Red Cliffs NCA.

It is essential that BLM craft strong plans worthy of the lands and resources the agency is charged with protecting, as they will set an important precedent for future plans as more of Utah’s public lands are officially preserved as wilderness or NCAs.

It is important that BLM receive your input emphasizing appropriate off-road vehicle routes, the need to protect wildlife and habitat, and suitable management decisions to protect the lands with wilderness character that were not included in the recent legislation.  But time is short!  Please submit your written comments to the agency by July 19, 2010.  Click here for more information and suggestions about what you can write to BLM.