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Letter: Why increase foot traffic in our wild Utah?

Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor
Deseret News

Having been born and raised in beautiful, wild southern Utah, I can tell you for a person getting up in years like myself, the best places to go for a true solitary wilderness experience now is on BLM or Forest Service land.

Twenty years ago you could visit the Grand Staircase area and go down the Hole in the Rock road and maybe see an occasional hiker or rancher. Now, there are toilets in Coyote Gulch and almost continual traffic. Capital Reef is beautiful and just a few minutes away, but I rarely hike there because of the crowds. I'm not worried about coal; that industry is on the decline. The limited grazing permits on public lands seem to cause little harm. Restrictions on resource utilization on BLM and U.S. Forest Service land are already extremely rigid. No, my biggest concern is the added human traffic and effects of increasing crowds spreading out over the national monuments.

I would suggest we create the new national park and a few national monuments but leave most of wild southern Utah wild. The total acres of all five Utah national parks are less than 1 million acres. These are beautiful places worthy of their billing and places the people of the world really should come and see. But does all of wild southern Utah need to be tagged as monuments and parks? Over 3 million acres of new designated monuments? The Bears Ears area was undiscovered and pristine two years ago. What about now?

We're already hearing the rumblings of increased traffic into sensitive areas that up until the designation were completely off the public's radar. Let's maintain the current national parks and develop infrastructure in the recommended smaller national monuments to accommodate the added visitation. Protect sensitive landscapes and archaeological sites in these areas by putting in trails, signs, parking lots, decent roads, visitors centers and added staff.

Tourism will continue to grow, the crowds will be accommodated, and yet much of southern Utah will continue to be wild. I love my wild places, but why make them a national park or monument? Goodbye to the solitude.

Jeff Chappell