New Plan Puts Utah’s Wild Book Cliffs Region in Jeopardy
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a travel management plan for the remote Book Cliffs region—an area encompassing more than 602,000 acres of BLM-managed public lands in east-central Utah, including the Winter Ridge Wilderness Study Area and wilderness-quality lands around the White River, Bitter Creek, and Hideout Canyon. The plan will determine where off-road vehicle (ORV) use is allowed for decades to come.
Federal law requires the BLM to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. The agency’s current Book Cliffs travel plan—one of several pushed through at the end of the George W. Bush administration—blanketed the area with ORV routes, prioritizing motorized vehicle use at the expense of preserving important wildlife habitat and cultural sites.
SUWA and our partners challenged the Bush-era plans in court as unlawful—and won. That decision and a subsequent settlement agreement sent the BLM back to the drawing board to prepare 13 new travel plans, including in the Book Cliffs. Despite this, the BLM is now considering designating over seven hundred miles of new routes in the Book Cliffs Travel Management Area, on top of those designated in 2008.
The BLM is currently in the initial “scoping” phase of its travel planning process, which identifies issues the agency must consider. Please tell the agency to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and wilderness-quality lands in the Book Cliffs region.
>> Click here to submit comments by the July 8th deadline
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Senator Lee Is Wrong: Capitol Reef Is No Place for OHVs (Op-Ed)
In an op-ed published last week in the Salt Lake Tribune, author Stephen Trimble, who was once a seasonal ranger at Capitol Reef National Park, blasted two proposals by Senator Mike Lee that would unleash off-highway vehicles in Capitol Reef and other Utah national parks:
“[Senator Lee’s] latest attack on Utah national parks is a Senate bill that would open virtually every road in Capitol Reef National Park to off-highway vehicles. Lee has introduced a companion bill that would allow state OHV laws to take precedence over park management in all National Park Service areas, potentially bringing these noisy street-legal machines to every park.
“. . . The park manages Capitol Reef backcountry for remoteness, ‘with its wilderness qualities preserved.’ At each step further into park backcountry, off-highway vehicles become more problematic. Even with a majority of law-abiding riders, some will go off-road. They just will. Their vehicles are designed for this exact purpose.
“. . . If you love this remarkable park, join the National Park Service in opposing these bills. Tell our senators why OHVs have no place here.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Wilderness on the Ground: A Report from the Swell
Thanks to the steady and persistent work of our Wildlands Team and more than a half-decade of service expertise gained by our Stewardship Program, SUWA has successfully catalyzed overdue protection efforts for the diverse landscapes in the San Rafael Swell designated as wilderness over two years ago through the John Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act.
This spring, we targeted our efforts along the eastern and western boundaries of the Mexican Mountain Wilderness, as well as in locations along the eastern flank of Sid’s Mountain Wilderness. After two trips and over 200 volunteer hours committed, we’ve completed stage one protections aimed at ORV compliance in these designated wilderness areas.
Currently and through the summer, we are in the midst of scoping the San Rafael Reef Wilderness, with plans for multiple fall projects beginning with a run of three weekends in September and October surrounding National Public Lands Day: September 11/12, September 25/26 (National Public Lands Day), and October 2/3. And, already in the pipeline, we have plans to move forward into the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness in the spring of 2022 and Muddy Creek Wilderness in the fall of 2022.
Photo © SUWA
Wild Utah Podcast Features Bears Ears Artist in Residence at Utah Diné Bikéyah
Our latest podcast takes a step back to look at the macro view of why southern Utah captures the hearts of so many. We’re joined by Michael Haswood, Bears Ears Artist in Residence at Utah Diné Bikéyah to ask: What is beauty? How is beauty embodied in your art? Is beauty important in the movement to protect wilderness?
Since its debut in 2018, SUWA’s Wild Utah podcast has covered a number of issues facing redrock country. Please join our growing world of listeners by subscribing to Wild Utah through Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, or on our website.
Artwork © Michael Haswood
Call for Redrock Wilderness Newsletter Distributors!
All dues-paying members receive our Redrock Wilderness newsletter via regular mail three times per year, but it also serves as an important public education piece and member/activist recruiting tool. SUWA is currently looking for volunteers to help get our newsletter into more libraries, coffee shops, outdoor equipment stores, and other supportive businesses in Utah and across the country. Can you help distribute copies in your community?
Let us know if you’re willing to develop a small delivery route in your area, or if you know of any local businesses that might accept direct shipments. And if you own or manage a business and can put a stack of newsletters out for your patrons, we’d love to hear from you.
To help us distribute Redrock Wilderness in your area, just email email@example.com and we’ll get you set up. You might even get to know your neighborhood a little better, just like our smiling Salt Lake City volunteers Gina and Chris, pictured above!