We sound like a broken record lately, but we’re just the messenger. The BLM’s Monticello field office has announced a proposal to add more off-road vehicle (ORV) routes to the 3,000-plus miles of routes in San Juan County that were designated in the 2008 Resource Management Plan and Travel Plan (RMP/TP).
This new proposal, which comes on the heels of the BLM’s recent decision to allow four new ORV rights-of-way on Cedar Mesa, would add 10 new ORV routes in San Juan County. This is in addition to the county’s pending right-of-way requests for new ORV routes in Recapture Canyon and Indian Creek.
BLM, do your homework first
Ignoring the fact that the BLM’s 2008 travel plan in San Juan County went overboard by designating over 3,000 miles of motorized routes (the equivalent to driving across the Untied States with a side trip to Canada!), the 2008 RMP/TP did require the Monticello BLM to develop an ORV monitoring plan and provide enhanced enforcement for more effective management of ORV use. Per the agency’s own directive, the ORV monitoring plan was deemed necessary due to the large number of outstanding identified and recorded cultural sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and the continuing identification of yet unknown sites. Five years later, we’re still waiting for that monitoring plan and for actual monitoring to occur along the 3,000-plus miles of designated routes.
And, since the national average is one BLM law enforcement officer for every 1.76 million acres, we’re nearly certain that the Monticello field office has not enhanced its enforcement presence in the backcountry to a meaningful level.
Wrong places, wrong message
The new ORV routes are proposed in Arch Canyon, Recapture Canyon, at the base of Wingate Mesa west of White Canyon, near Lake Canyon, and along the San Juan River east of Comb Ridge. Several of these routes are located in areas with wilderness character, while others are located in sensitive riparian habitat or in areas known to have dense archaeological sites.
The BLM should complete the required ORV monitoring plan and undertake on-the-ground monitoring of the existing ORV routes to document ongoing resource damages and user compliance before considering the addition of more ORV routes. In addition, adding these illegally pioneered ORV trails to the BLM’s official travel plan legitimizes unauthorized ORV use and sends the message that the BLM will reward the creation of illegal trails by eventually adding the trails to its travel plan.
Please take a moment to tell the Monticello BLM office: Monitor existing routes before adding new routes, and do not designate new ORV routes in proposed wilderness or other ecologically sensitive areas.