Proposed Off-Road Vehicle Rights-of-Way in Southeastern Utah

San Juan County’s proposed Indian Creek right-of-way.  Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

San Juan County is pressuring BLM to cede control and management of your public lands by requesting rights-of way for new off-road vehicle (ORV) trails.  Currently, the County wants rights-of-way for ORV trails in Indian Creek, Recapture Canyon and on Cedar Mesa.

In 2008 the BLM designated routes across public lands in southern Utah, effectively ending the outdated and ridiculous policy of unrestricted cross-country travel.  Although the BLM’s travel plan for public lands in San Juan County isn’t perfect (SUWA has a pending challenge to the travel plan in federal court), it is a big improvement over the unmitigated chaos of cross-country travel.  However, the more than 3,000 miles of designated routes and trails in San Juan County is apparently too few for the fanatical road cultists there.  A small group of county officials and ORV “enthusiasts” want to build several new ORV trails for no other purpose than convenient connections to other existing ORV trails (with the ultimate goal being a county-wide ORV trail system).  Not only do they want additional trails, they want rights-of-way for these trails, meaning the BLM would turn over management and control of public lands to the county for 30 years or longer.   Simply put, this should not happen!

Several of the proposed rights-of-way would bisect lands in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, places even the BLM agrees are of wilderness caliber. In addition, dozens of prehistoric archaeological sites eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places fall within the proposed rights-of-way. A couple of the rights-of-way are even located in and near streams which provide valuable habitat for the vast majority of the areas’ wildlife species.

It boils down to this: the BLM is legally responsible for protecting archaeology and natural resources on our public lands; beyond argument, ORV use results in increased vandalism and looting of archaeological sites, degrades water quality and stream functioning, increases soil erosion and fragments wildlife.  With this in mind, it makes little sense to allow San Juan County to chainsaw old-growth juniper trees to bulldoze new routes through some of the richest archaeology on the planet, through streams, and across roadless wild lands.