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Environmental groups critical of BLM's management of ORVs

By Jed Boal | Posted - Dec 1st, 2010 @ 6:22pm



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SOUTHERN UTAH -- Utah environmental groups released a report card that sharply criticizes the Bureau of Land Management's management of off-road vehicles in southern and eastern Utah. The BLM says it is making progress, but there's more work to be done.

BLM Report Card on ORV management

AreaGrade
Shows ProgressB
Protects the Environment from ORV DamageD
Understands and Appreciates History and Other CulturesF
Understands and Applies Scientific FindingsD
Follows DirectionsF
Does Quality HomeworkI
Recognizes and Corrects MistakesF
The Southern UtahWilderness Alliance

BLM management plans for six areas of Utah were finalized in 2008. After two years, with new restrictions on off-road vehicle routes, the environmentalists argue those plans do not go far enough to protect public lands. The director of the BLM in Utah accepts the criticism and says they are working to protect the land.

ORV use on public lands kicks up the heated debate between those who want to restrict riding and those who want to open more areas.

Zach Frankel with the Utah Rivers Council said, "There's nothing wrong with ATV recreation. The issue with the BLM is how they are managed."

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), the Utah Rivers Council and the Utah Chapter Sierra Club give the BLM poor marks for protecting the environment and cultural resources from ORV damage.

Liz Thomas with SUWA said, "They haven't taken the necessary steps to protect these resources from the know damages that occur from off-road vehicle use."

Rural Utah counties, however, always want to be sure their viewpoints are considered in the discussion of federal public lands in Utah. Sevier County commissioner Gary Mason says these BLM resource management plans have a great impact on rural Utah counties, and he says those who live in the communities are concerned about any adjustments to the plans that would further limit ORV use.

In 2008, when the BLM developed its first largescale trail maps, it designated 20,000 miles of ORV routes in southern and eastern Utah— enough to reach from LA to New York more than seven times. -SUWA

SUWA sued the BLM over the 2008 plans, but they are in settlement talks. The BLM limited ORV use to over 17,000 miles of designated trails in Utah. The environmentalists argue 3,000 miles still roll though streams and culturally significant areas, though. They say closing those routes would still leave thousands of miles of open trails.

"There's ample scientific, objective reasons to protect these large wilderness areas from off-road vehicle use," Thomas said.

SUWA admits the 2008 ORV plans are an improvement over unlimited cross-country access.

BLM Director in Utah Juan Palma says they have completed a lot of trail work, such as putting up closed trail signs. Palma says he appreciates the input from the report and from ORV riders who help with trail management.

The BLM Director says his agency has a responsibility to protect the land, and they are making progress. He believes future reports will reflect even more positive work to protect the land.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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