On May 9, 2018, Senator Orrin Hatch and Rep. John Curtis of Utah introduced “The Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018”—a bill that would significantly impact YOUR public lands in Utah.

Emery County is home to world-class wilderness landscapes such as the San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons, and contains more than 1.5 million acres of land worthy of wilderness protection.

Muddy Creek Proposed Wilderness in the San Rafael Swell. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

The same politicians who instigated and celebrated the illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments have introduced legislation for Emery County that enshrines motorized recreation and undermines existing protections.

While at first blush the Emery County bill boasts wilderness and National Recreation Area (NRA) acreages that may seem impressive, a closer analysis of the bill reveals fatally flawed legislation. Here’s what it does:

  • Entirely fails to protect remarkable and critical intact wilderness landscapes as wilderness. This includes large portions of Labyrinth Canyon—including a large portion of wilderness-quality lands on the western side and the entire eastern side of the canyon system—and much of the remote Muddy Creek region. As proposed, the bill would designate less wilderness than is currently protected for wilderness character as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) or Natural Areas.
  • Fails to provide any protection for the San Rafael Badlands, a remote and rugged landscape containing an abundance of cultural resources.
  • Rolls back existing WSA protections to facilitate coal mining in the Book Cliffs.
  • Includes unprecedented giveaways to the State of Utah in the form of recreation and public purpose conveyances. The legislation would hand over control of 7,000 acres of high-value public land to the State of Utah for expansion of Goblin Valley State Park. The State could then charge fees for access and develop new amenities and motorized and non-motorized trail systems.
  • Authorizes a land exchange that will give the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) ownership of nearly 12,000 acres of public lands that are currently proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
  • Allows the State of Utah to continue its federal court litigation seeking highway rights-of-way through designated wilderness, instead of resolving Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477 issues.

We are committed to fighting this poorly-considered proposal for some of Utah’s most treasured wilderness landscapes. To learn more about the lands at risk, see Conservation Highlights of the San Rafael Swell and Labyrinth Canyon

Eagle Canyon Proposed Wilderness, San Rafael Swell. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA


Labyrinth Canyon Proposed Wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA