In a rare but welcome turn of events, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has withdrawn part of a 2018 decision authorizing the destruction of more than 2,500 acres of pinyon pine and juniper trees on wild lands of the Tavaputs Plateau. The devegetation would have occurred within the Desolation Canyon and Jack Canyon Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in eastern Carbon County.

The BLM’s decision was a direct result of our lawsuit in federal court earlier this year in which we challenged the agency’s unlawful decision to allow surface-disturbing activity in the WSAs.

Cedar Ridge within the Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Area. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

In our lawsuit, we alleged that the BLM’s decision—to use heavy machinery, including bullhog masticators, to remove pinyon pine and juniper forests from WSAs—violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the agency’s legal obligation not to “impair” wilderness suitability of WSAs. Shortly after we filed our lawsuit, the BLM withdrew its approval of all portions of the vegetation removal project that would have occurred within the Jack Canyon and Desolation Canyon WSAs.

We regret that it takes legal action to make the agency truly consider whether or not it is following the law when approving site-specific projects on Utah wild lands. Nonetheless, we are pleased that the BLM ultimately made the right decision to protect these WSAs from all actions that impair their world class ecological and wilderness values.

As always, we couldn’t have done it without your support!

—Kya Marienfeld

(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, summer 2019 issue)