Located near St. George, Utah among the red rocks and red sand, Sand Mountain, by Sand Hollow State Park hosts year round recreational opportunities for people around the world. Bureau of Land Management is considering a land swap. However, if this land exchange doesn’t carefully consider all the relevant concerns, it could devastate events, local businesses, countless traditions and future memories. The exchange would involve swapping 1050 acres of the Western Edge of Sand Mountain near Warner Valley with 89 acres of private land in Washington near Green Springs in an area managed as a desert tortoise preserve. Washington County is designated as the Facilitator of the Exchange. The City of Washington plans to to annex much of the acquired area into their City, which will likely be a significant influence in the exchange.
This exchange involves parcels that could affect access to the West Rim Trail, Ridgeline Trail, dispersed camping, staging areas and more. The recreation community needs to rally together, because land exchanges such as this tend to result in permanent changes. Utah Public Lands Alliance, Desert Roads and Trails Society, Mayor Nanette Billings (Hurricane), BlueRibbon Coalition, and Tri State ATV have been meeting with BLM, Water Conservancy, and the City of Washington to learn more about the project. Now we need you to become part of the process. Send a comment to the BLM before April 19 to ensure our concerns are documented and included in the proposal. You can learn more by reading the full briefing below and reviewing the maps at the bottom of this page.
The proposed action just entered the Public Scoping phase, which is scheduled to conclude at midnight on April 19, 2023. The Following maps provided by BLM and Utah Public Lands Alliance (UPLA) show: An Overall view of the Washington City Annexation Plan, which shows the proposed BLM Exchange areas, the new Washington City Annexation, and the proposed reservoir in the valley.
In the West Rim with Sat Views image, you can see the Red Outlined section was the land originally requested in October 2022, and the Green Outline shows the expanded area they added in February. The exchange and City Annexation include all of the area around the Pipeline Road and dispersed camping sites, and portions of West Rim including the Steps and The Funnel.
The current exchange proposal does not swap land acre for acre. The 2009 public land legislation that created the desert tortoise preserve included provisions that that property owners within the preserve would be able to value their properties as if they weren’t in the preserve. The legislation allowed for the property owners to be compensated either through purchase or land exchange. The land in the tortoise preserve is therefore valued at the current rate of residential lots in Washington County. We believe the economic value of outdoor recreation in Sand Hollow is significantly larger than the economic value of 89 acres of residential lots. It is difficult to compare recreation value of land against residential development value, and for this reason, BLM should find areas outside of a Special Recreation Management Area that would be suitable for residential development if they must do a land exchange. Ideally, they could find land suitable for residential development that would result in something closer to an acre for acre exchange. People travel from across the world to experience Sand Mountain. It’s blatantly obvious those facilitating the exchange are not considering the entrance fees, hotels, gas, food and so many more commodities that bring in economic revenue for St. George and smaller surrounding communities. They need to hear from the recreation users of this area.
The agencies involved have been open to feedback, and this plan is in the earliest part of the process called scoping. The most useful comments will respectfully share our concerns in order to ensure that they are part of the record. We also encourage everyone to highlight the economic impact you create by visiting the area.