Facebook Twitter

Wilderness group fine-tunes its inventory of BLM lands

SHARE Wilderness group fine-tunes its inventory of BLM lands

Give up a little bit here, take a little bit there. Actually, take a whole lot more than what you give up.

At least that seems to be the approach of the Utah Wilderness Coalition, which unveiled the second portion of its revised "citizens wilderness" inventory of Bureau of Land Management lands during a Wednesday night open house at Provo High School.In the Book Cliffs area in eastern Utah, about 3,000 acres were dropped out of the coalition's earlier wilderness proposal because of the impacts of hydrocarbon development. Another 260,000 acres in the eastern Book Cliffs near the Colorado border were added to the inventory.

In the San Juan County area, somewhat less than 10,000 acres were dropped in the Cheese Box area, near the San Juan River and at the Halls Crossing airport, all because of developments that occurred since the original inventory was done 12 years ago. About 50,000 acres were added in the Goosenecks of the San Juan, Hammond Canyon, Japan Canyon, Allen Canyon and Mancos Butte areas.

About 150,000 acres were added to the inventory in the Glen Canyon area just outside the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which manages the national recreation area.

That amounts to a net increase of roughly 450,000 acres in those three areas over the amount included in the coalition's original inventory conducted 12 years ago. That inventory identified 5.7 million acres statewide.

During an earlier open house in Moab, the coalition unveiled the results of its wilderness surveys of the three regions in central and southeastern Utah.

In the Moab area, the inventory dropped about 16,000 acres but added 50,000 acres; in the Canyonlands area it dropped 4,000 acres from wilderness consideration but added 225,000 acres; and in the San Rafael area it dropped about 9,000 acres but added 230,000 acres.

That was a net increase of roughly 475,000 acres over the coalition's previous wilderness proposal.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition has spent the last couple of years walking Utah's backcountry to document which properties qualify as wilderness under the 1964 Wilderness Act, and which are not eligible because they have been scarred by human development.

The original 5.7 million-acre inventory has been soundly criticized by many in Utah's congressional delegation and in state agencies because some of the areas proposed for wilderness included towns, mines and roads. The current inventory accumulated almost 50,000 photographs to refute those claims.

It is unlikely the documentation will mollify state officials, the congressional delegation or rural county commissioners, who support much smaller wilderness designations or none at all. The BLM, which identified about 3 million acres in its initial survey, is conducting its own re-inventory of Utah lands that may qualify as wilderness.

Two more open houses are scheduled, one in Ogden and one in Salt Lake City, to identify additional areas of Utah that the coalition believes qualify for wilderness designation. Vast tracts of western and northwestern Utah will be added to the inventory that were never considered in the initial inventory.

Also to be unveiled are the coalition's wilderness proposals for the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is managed by the BLM.