Labyrinth Canyon and the San Rafael Desert Need Your Help

Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that the current San Rafael Desert Motorized Travel Planning process should not result in expanded off-road vehicle use in the San Rafael Desert. Click here to send your comments by February 21, 2015.

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San Rafael Desert. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Utah’s San Rafael Desert, included within the San Rafael River, Sweetwater Reef, Flat Tops and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness units, is a remote, undeveloped, and sublime landscape. Located east of the San Rafael Reef and expanding to Labyrinth Canyon, the San Rafael Desert is rich in archaeological sites and provides habitat for species such as pronghorn antelope, kit fox, and the burrowing owl.

The BLM’s Price Field Office is in the early stages of motorized travel planning for the San Rafael Desert. Generally, SUWA is supportive of the BLM taking a hard look at motorized travel designations on public lands, but nearly half of the current travel planning area was already analyzed by the agency as part of its 2003 San Rafael Route Designation Plan. That plan, although not perfect, involved a lengthy public process and survived both administrative appeal and litigation. SUWA supported the plan and even intervened on behalf of the BLM in those legal proceedings.

While it’s unclear why the BLM is using limited agency resources on motorized travel planning in areas that only recently underwent the same analysis, what is clear is that the motorized community sees this as an opportunity to create new off-road vehicle trails and to re-open areas and trails that were specifically restricted from motorized use. These include the Junes Bottom area and route proliferation along the rims of Labyrinth Canyon, through many unique dune environments, and within culturally-rich canyons such as Cottonwood Wash.

Labyrinth Canyon

Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

We know that any rollback of the current travel plan for the San Rafael Desert will result in increased adverse impacts to wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and wilderness-quality lands. This approach directly contradicts the BLM’s obligation to minimize impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

Please tell the BLM, by February 21, 2015, that the current San Rafael Desert Travel Planning process should not result in increased off-road vehicle routes in the San Rafael Desert and that the BLM should minimize the impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

Thank you for your support in protecting this wilderness-quality landscape.