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Groups criticize BLM off-road routes in Utah

By Associated Press | Posted - Dec 12th, 2010 @ 2:53pm



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Environmental groups have released a report sharply critical of federal oversight of off-road vehicle routes in southern and eastern Utah.

The Utah Rivers Council, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Sierra Club's Utah chapter gave the BLM poor marks for protecting the environment and cultural resources from off-road vehicle damage.


There's nothing wrong with ATV recreation. The issue with the BLM is how (it is) managed.

–Zach Frankel


BLM Utah Director Juan Palma accepted some criticism, but also defended the Bureau of Land Management's work, following the recent release of the report card on its off-road policies, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.

He noted the agency's work to protect lands by designating trails, posting signs and more accurately mapping accessible areas, but environmentalists argue that its management plans for off-road and all-terrain vehicle routes adopted two years ago aren't adequate.

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

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is negotiating with the BLM after filing a lawsuit over the 2008 management plans. SUWA said public land managers "merely copied and largely incorporated 'wish lists' of counties and ORV enthusiasts into its 2008 ORV plans" without proper study.

The group called the result "seriously flawed" and did not issue a report-card grade.

In seven areas that were evaluated, the BLM scored a "B" for improvements made in the 2008 plans that closed access to the Butler Wash area near Cedar Mesa and retained closures at Factory Butte and Recapture Canyon.

In 2008, when the BLM developed its first large-scale trail maps, it designated 20,000 miles of off-road vehicle routes in southern and eastern Utah. It limited off-road vehicle use to some 17,000 miles of designated trails.

But environmentalists argue that closing another 3,000 miles of trails through streams and culturally significant areas would still leave thousands of miles of open trails.

The agency is also in the midst of updating management plans for more than 2 million acres in Beaver, Iron and Washington counties.

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(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-12-12-10 1127MST

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