San Juan County Wilderness Alternatives Fall Far Too Short

Fort Knocker Narrows, copyright Chris Case.

San Juan County, which contains some of redrock country’s most magnificent treasures, is developing a wilderness proposal in response to Congressman Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative.

Unfortunately, the three alternatives recently proposed by the San Juan County Lands Council fall far short of protecting some of the most outstanding wild lands in southern Utah. Even the best of the alternatives (Alternative C) would roll back currently existing protection for some lands.

All alternatives ignored input of local residents, including the Dine Bikeyah proposal submitted by Utah Navajos who make up nearly half of the county’s residents.

Even the best of the alternatives (Alternative C):

  • Fails to provide protection for spectacular areas proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. All or portions of places like Nokai Dome, White Canyon, Upper Red Canyon, Fort Knocker Canyon, and Hart’s Point were left on the chopping block.
  • Perpetuates off-road vehicle (ORV) abuse by codifying BLM’s Bush-era ORV route designations even though a Utah federal court judge set aside a nearly identical travel plan for failure to comply with requirements to protect cultural sites, riparian areas and other natural resources. It’s just a matter of time before the court overturns the BLM’s Monticello and Moab travel plans in San Juan County.
  • Amplifies the impacts of ORV use by adding even more routes in wilderness areas on top of the thousands of miles of routes designated in the BLM’s seriously flawed travel plans. Thus, even lands proposed for protection will be crisscrossed with ORV routes.
  • Significantly overstates the total amount of acreage protected by double-counting the wilderness lands and National Park Service lands that are included in the National Conservation Area boundaries.

Significant areas in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act were left out of all the alternatives, and areas included were compromised with ORV routes.

San Juan County’s ultimate proposal to Rep. Bishop should protect the remaining wilderness in San Juan County, and with your help we will work toward that goal.