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WILDERNESS GROUP CHALLENGES BLM DECISION TO ALLOW FILMING

SHARE WILDERNESS GROUP CHALLENGES BLM DECISION TO ALLOW FILMING

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has appealed a decision by Bureau of Land Management officials in Moab to allow a film crew to shove a huge wooden box from a landmark east of Castle Valley.

The film company is Camay Court Productions, based in Salt Lake City, and the film is called "Slaughter of the Innocents." According to the BLM, the movie script involves tracking down someone who killed children.For the movie's climax, Camay wants to shove a wooden "ark" - shaped something like Noah's - from Castle Rock. SUWA charged that the impact would damage the beauty of the region, but the BLM's environmental assessment says this winter's snow would obliterate traces of the fall.

The "ark" will be assembled in six sections, which are to be lifted by helicopter to the rock. After the fall is filmed, probably at the end of this month, helicopters are to retrieve the pieces, said Mary von-Koch, realty specialist for BLM Grand Resource Area, Moab, who issues film permits.

"These guys want to push five tons of trash into a proposed wilderness area," said Ken Rait, issues coordinator for SUWA. The area is the Mary Jane Canyon proposed wilderness, about 20 miles northeast of Moab.

Although the Utah Wilderness Coalition supports the region for wilderness protection, it is not an official wilderness study area. However, it is a roadless area, he said.

"The BLM's own environmental analysis said this could cause long-term visual impacts and that it would exceed visual resource guidelines stated in the BLM's own plan," he added. Rait said SUWA believes the event will scrape away vegetation and soil and dislodge rocks. It will scar the landscape, he said.

According to vonKoch, the BLM believes that the worst the falling "ark" would do is "something similar to an accelerated rockfall in an area where we have that happen all the time."

SUWA's appeal did not halt the project, both sides said. Rait charged that a filing should automatically stop the project, but vonKoch said the regulations are silent about that.

"But we have proposed rule-making, it's not finalized, that specifically takes permits out of the appeals process," she said. Based on that, she said, the BLM has decided that the intent of the regulations is the same as the new regulations that are planned: no automatic halt to permits because of appeals.

SUWA maintains that filing an appeal should halt the action.

"They're now setting up the set and they're proposing to film for two days at the end of the month," vonKoch said.

Rait said the BLM position is "if you think the law's changing next year (because of the proposed regulations), you might as well act as if they changed this year."