More ORV Trails in San Juan County

River House Ruin (San Juan County).  © Ray Bloxham.
River House Ruin on the San Juan River. © Ray Bloxham.

Last summer, when the BLM’s Monticello field office announced a proposal to add more off-road vehicle (ORV) routes to its 2008 Travel Plan, we urged the agency to monitor and assess the 3,000 miles of existing ORV routes before adding new routes.  Now the BLM is accepting comments on its Environmental Assessment (EA), which in the absence of monitoring data, concludes that the new ORV routes will have no impact on the public lands or its resources.  Your voice matters — please tell BLM to do its homework before designating new ORV routes!

The BLM’s EA states that the new ORV trails would not change the “existing use pattern.”  What the BLM’s EA fails to mention is that this “existing use pattern” is illegal ORV use on user-created trails.  What’s more, the BLM alone has allowed this illegal “existing use pattern” to occur.  Rather than enforce its own Travel Plan, the BLM is now proposing to legitimize the illegal ORV use on the user-created trails.

Location, Location, Location!

The BLM essentially (and erroneously) concludes that the low mileage of proposed new routes (10 miles) equates to low impacts.  This is bad math and bad analysis.  These new ORV routes are proposed in 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.  These routes are located in floodplains, riparian zones, areas known to have irreplaceable archaeological sites, and in lands with wilderness character.   In short, these new ORV routes fail to comply with federal regulations requiring the BLM to minimize impacts of ORV route designation on natural and cultural resources, and on other public land users (read the Environmental Assessment).

BLM, Do Your Homework First

The BLM’s 2008 Travel Plan states that the Monticello BLM will develop an ORV monitoring plan and provide enhanced enforcement for more effective management of ORV use.  The ORV monitoring plan was deemed necessary due to the large number of significant cultural sites deemed eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and the continuing identification of yet unknown sites.  Six years later, we’re still waiting for that monitoring plan and data collection in order to assess the impacts that are occurring along the 3,000 miles of currently designated routes.

Simply put, the BLM is putting the cart before the horse.  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 eventually reward the creation of illegal trails by adding those trails to its travel plan.

Please send a letter to the Monticello BLM office stating:  Do not designate new ORV routes in proposed wilderness or other ecologically sensitive areas; and before designating any new ORV routes, monitor existing ORV routes, close redundant routes, and close routes that are currently impacting natural and cultural resources.  Click here to send your message.