Canyon Country, UT

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to authorize a number of commercial and other special recreation permits in 17 recently designated Wildernesses in southeastern Utah’s San Rafael Swell and Desolation Canyon that could drive overuse by visitors and too many commercial operations. And it’s doing this before it even writes management plans for the Wildernesses.

In its “Issuing Special Recreation Permits in Wilderness Areas” Environmental Assessment (EA), the BLM is putting the cart before the horse by issuing Special Recreation Permits (SRP) now, before it has completed the required analysis of current Wilderness conditions. This could lead to BLM approving inappropriate commercial operations within these Wildernesses that would later need to be removed (which could be politically difficult to do). BLM needs to instead protect and properly steward the wild character of these 17 Wildernesses by developing good Wilderness Management Plans first, before it considers what level of recreation use can occur. When BLM does issue SRPs, it needs to sparingly issue commercial recreation permits to protect the area from exploitation.

The BLM also needs to reduce the excessively large group sizes it is proposing (up to 25 people in some areas) for these Wildernesses, and rework its woefully inadequate commercial “needs assessment” that merely inventories current and potential commercial services rather than analyzes what (and whether) commercial services are needed.

The EA also fails to consider the effects on Wilderness and wildlife if the recreation permits are issued. Many sensitive species rely on these areas including bighorn sheep, Mexican Spotted Owls, and other raptors.

Utah’s canyon country and its world-class wildlands deserve real Wilderness protection. Given the prolonged mega drought in this part of the world, the last thing the areas’ Wilderness and wildlife need is increased stress brought on by inappropriate or excessive human use.

 

Read our comments

 

Photo: Bob Wick, BLM

 
 
 
 

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