The BLM is accepting public comment for 6 amendments to the Moab, Price, and Vernal Resource Management Plan. These amendments are part of the process to implement the Dingell Act which created 600,000 acres of wilderness in Emery County, cherry-stemmed hundreds of miles of roads, created national monuments, and will set the stage for recreation access in these areas for decades. SUWA is already mounting their fight. Even though this legislation was written to define public land management in Emery County, Grand County leaders are using these planning process to further their agenda of trying to close as many roads as possible in Grand County. We need everyone to submit comments or many areas that people love to ride in Southern Utah will be closed down. We know that trying to keep up with these processes is exhausting, and we believe the process is designed to wear you down to where you give up. We’re tracking all these issues, so you can add your voice to ours and stand strong against these efforts to close our public lands that are coming from all directions.
This is the letter Grand County is sending to the BLM:
You will see they are proposing the closure of several significant motorized routes, “The designation of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness in Emery County is incomplete without similar management of the Grand County side of the river. One cannot have a ‘wilderness experience’ while camping directly across from a regularly utilized motor vehicle route. The way that canyon walls ricochet sound coupled with the increased usage of unusually loud vehicles, such as side-by-sides and motorcycles, essentially ruins that experience for thousands of recreationists every year. Therefore, the Grand County Commission supports analyzing the following areas for closure or alternate management scenarios: the Hey Joe motorized route along the river from Spring Canyon, downstream of Spring Canyon, along the river towards Hell Roaring Canyon, Hell Roaring Canyon, 10 Mile Canyon, and the Dead Cow Motorcycle route. Closing these routes to motorized use would represent a small loss for users considering the extensive network of motorized trails found virtually everywhere in Grand County, many of which have incredible vistas of the Green and Colorado Rivers or provide direct access to those same rivers. In contrast, there is no comparable opportunity for a wilderness quality, family friendly, accessible flat-water river trip.”
We agree with the analysis from Colorado Off-road Trail Defenders regarding these closures:
In this the Commission is asking the BLM to blatantly violate federal law by closing motorized routes because of sound impacts to adjacent Wilderness from outside the Wilderness area. The Dingell Act specifically prohibited the BLM from creating buffer zones or from considering sight or sound impacts on the Wilderness from activities outside the Wilderness as reasons to prohibit those activities. Each of the Wilderness designations in the Dingell Act included the following language:
(1) In general.–Congress does not intend for the designation of the wilderness areas to create protective perimeters or buffer zones around the wilderness areas.
(2) Nonwilderness activities.–The fact that nonwilderness activities or uses can be seen or heard from areas within a wilderness area shall not preclude the conduct of those activities or uses outside the boundary of the wilderness area.
In terms of motorized travel management, this Congressional language specifically prohibits the BLM from closing motorized routes based on sight or sound impacts to nearby Wilderness areas across the Green River from the motorized routes on the east bank. The Commission is therefore asking the BLM to violate federal law by considering factors Congress has forbidden it from considering in the RMP amendment process.
It should also be recognized that they are trying to limit access for aircraft and drones, “Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the use of small aircraft piloted below the rim of Labyrinth Canyon. Of particular nuisance to those enjoying quiet, scenic backcountry river trips are paragliders, which create a very high pitch drone that carries great distances through the canyon. We would like the BLM to consider limiting the overall use of the Mineral Bottom airstrip as well as other backcountry airstrips in the vicinity, as well as considering limits to particularly loud and low-flying aircraft.”
We have an action alert for the first plan amendment and we will continue to add action alerts so you can be involved in every step of the way. These comments are all due Jan. 7th. Our first focus is the Green River Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River Segments amendmnet. Through this amendment, BLM is using the wild, scenic and recreational river designations in a way that could potentially create wilderness buffer zones. Motorized watercraft also access the river in these areas, and these designations could impact motorized use on the river in addition to justifying motorized routes near the river.
These two maps show our primary concerns. The purple diagonal lines run outside of the blue WSR corridor on the map on the left, and if those areas are designated as scenic segments, it will give BLM justification to close all of the routes highlighted in yellow on the right. These are routes we will be fighting aggressively to keep open in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan, and we need to make sure our efforts aren’t undermined by Wild and Scenic River Designations: