Utah’s anti-wilderness frenzy: Herbert finds a partner in Emery County?

Yesterday, Emery County representatives presented a truly awful wilderness proposal to Governor Herbert’s Resources Committee.  There is a consistency here.  This year, Herbert launched an unprecedented attack on our public lands, suing the United States twenty-two times as to seize control over 10,000 off-road vehicle routes crossing National Parks, Wilderness and proposed wilderness.   And he signed legislation demanding that the United States give him 30 million acres of public land.  The Emery County proposal fits nicely with the Governor’s extraordinary portfolio of anti-wilderness measures.

The Emery County proposal would damage some of the best of the Redrock wilderness — the San Rafael Swell, Desolation Canyon, and Labyrinth Canyon.  It would roll back existing protections, open areas to off-road vehicle use that are currently closed, and open protected areas to coal mining.  It fails to protect vast tracts of deserving wilderness, including two-thirds of the affected lands proposed for protection in the Red Rock bill.  The proposal’s management language creates exceptions to the Wilderness Act, cuts up landscapes and complicates management with arbitrary unit boundaries along county lines.

We, with our partners in the Utah Wilderness Coalition, tried to work with Emery County.  We were encouraged when the County initially agreed to split the cost of a facilitator to work through differences.  Unfortunately, a backlash from off-road vehicle interests caused Emery County to renege on this agreement.  Instead, the County chose to move forward with a local process that resulted in this proposal.

We remain willing to try to resolve differences between America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and Emery County’s proposal.  However, if Emery charges ahead and succeeds in getting this bill introduced in Congress, we will either kill it or fix it so that it is a step forward for protecting the Redrock.  We’ve already done that over a dozen times in the past twenty years.