Earlier this year I wrote that the effort by
Utah's Congressional Representatives to
formulate a land use bill for Eastern Utah may
have been motivated by a request to President
Obama from the Outdoor Industry Association to
designate SUWA's long sought goal of a "Greater
Canyonlands" land grab.
OIA's letter may have played a role,
but it seems I spoke too soon.
This is much more than a effort to
block a unilateral monument designation. Utah's
Congressional Reps seem to be genuinely
motivated by a desire to "put to bed" some of
the more contentious issues that have been
festering now for several decades.
Our evidence? A
nothing-less-than-impressive effort led by Rep.
Rob Bishop, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Chris
Stewart. Indeed, to date, there have been over
300 meetings, conference calls, and video
conferences with interested parties, including
Utah Gov. Herbert, Interior Secretary Sally
Jewell, state legislature and local elected
officials, not to mention public meetings and
field trips. Overall, there have been over 100
stakeholder groups that are or have been
involved in the process.
Heavy Hitters are Involved
Getting state agencies or local
governments to talk about settling public lands
issues is one thing. It is much more difficult
to get the wilderness groups talking. Its no
secret that ongoing controversy helps their
But to Congressman Bishop's credit,
the environmental groups are participating. Even
the heavy of heaviest hitter, the Pew Charitable
Trusts, are involved in this process. Pew is the
Tony Soprano of Wilderness Activist groups
simply by virtue of the tens of millions of
dollars that Pew spends every year on anti-OHV
and Wilderness efforts.
What's in it for the Wilderness
You'll be right in pointing out that
Tony Soprano doesn't get involved unless there
is a percentage in it for "The Family."
True enough. So what's in it for the
Wilderness activists? Plenty, actually. There is
potential here for a lot of new Wilderness. This
is because unlike most Western public lands
states, Utah doesn't have a lot of designated
Wilderness. Compared to Idaho, California,
Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana and
Arizona, Utah's 1.2 million acres is pretty
meager. Almost all Utah based stakeholder groups
are on record supporting an additional 2 million
acres or more.
Another opportunity for the Wilderness
activists is more roads and trails closed to
motorized and mountain bike use. As many of you
have no doubt experienced, the recent BLM travel
plans closed a lot of prized recreational
routes. But not enough for these groups. They'll
be looking for more.
in it for OHV Enthusiasts?
Let me get something out of the way
right up front. We titled this update "Threats
and Opportunities" because participating in this
sort of effort brings exactly that. The obvious
reality is the process may bring the next round
in the seemingly endless road and trail
closures. That is a real threat, and we are
taking it seriously.
BRC and other OHV groups are taking
somewhat of a hard line. We are willing to talk
about Wilderness, but we are strongly opposed to
another round of travel planning, especially
when the last round isn't even implemented yet!
In the past half-century, each decade
has brought further restrictions on vehicle
access and recreation on federal, state and even
private lands. While some of these restrictions
were necessary and appropriate, we've now
reached a tipping point.
In our view, the legislation should
seek to codify the existing travel plan so it
serves as a minimum travel system. This approach
makes particular sense for Utah BLM lands, where
the agency, coordinating agencies, affected
entities and the public have recently invested
millions of dollars revamping RMPs and travel
designations. The new travel management
decisions can and should form a long-term
management foundation. Where appropriate,
recreational trails and areas, both motorized
and non-motorized, could later be added
consistent with NEPA and other applicable laws.
BRC is committed to represent the
interest of our members in this process. You can
learn more and get real-time up to date
information on our website www.BlueRibbonCoalition.org.