Travel Management Plans: The Saga Continues

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is continuing its effort to complete nine travel management plans covering more than 5 million acres of BLM-managed land in Utah. These critical plans will determine where motorized vehicles are allowed to travel across some of Utah’s wildest and most fragile public lands.

While the plans have been moving slowly, there are encouraging signs of progress. The BLM now appears to be on track to finish several plans in 2024. To support both the Henry Mountains/Freemont Gorge and San Rafael Swell travel plans, the agency has been conducting surveys for threatened and endangered species such as the Mexican spotted owl, yellow-billed cuckoo, and San Rafael cactus. These surveys—done over the course of two years—help the BLM determine potential impacts to these species from motorized vehicles. The agency has also been inventorying cultural resources to assess the impacts of off-road vehicle travel on irreplaceable cultural sites. Historically, poor motorized travel planning has caused significant damage to these important resources.

The BLM also anticipates completing travel plans next year for the stunning landscapes adjacent to Zion National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the Trail Canyon and Paunsaugunt Travel Management Plans as well as for lands near Dinosaur National Monument. We also expect that the agency will release the final plan for the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area outside of Moab later this summer.

Public involvement in this process is critical to ensuring that the BLM designates route networks that preserve Utah’s wild lands. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved.

—Laura Peterson

(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, Summer 2023 issue)