RED ROCK WILDERNESS AND EMERY COUNTY
New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D) is once again sponsoring
a massive Wilderness Bill for Utah. Formerly known as HR 1500 and
asking for 5.7 million acres of Wilderness in our state, HR 1732 now plans
to designate more than 9.1 million acres. The bill has more than
150 cosponsors, mostly from Eastern states. Labeled as Utah's "Red
Rock Wilderness Bill" it was written by groups such as the Southern Utah
Wilderness Alliance (SUWA).
How much do you know about the "Red Rock Wilderness Bill?" Did you know that it would designate 1.38 million acres in Emery County alone? Did you know that all forms of mechanized travel and mineral extraction would be banned? Did you know that wildlife management would be restricted? Did you know that most of this acreage is land that has failed to qualify as Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in not one, but two Bureau of Land Management (BLM) inventories?
On Saturday, October 16 the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club organized a tour through one of the areas being proposed as Wilderness by HR 1732. The area is known as Lost Spring Wash and is located south of the Green River cut off road between Woodside and Castle Dale. This area has been designated as OPEN to Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use since the creation of the BLM. The Sage Riders have been sponsoring races in the area since 1982 and Lost Spring Wash has been part of the course in no less than eight events.
Isn't it ironic that SUWA can claim this land "must be protected from OHV use" and at the same time admit that thirty years of OPEN OHV use has not diminished the Wilderness characteristics of the area? How can both of their statements be true? It seems to us that either OHV use causes irreparable damage, or it doesn't.
Accompanying the Sage Riders were members of the SouthEastern Utah Off-Highway Vehicle Club (SEUOHV), Congressman Chris Cannon, Springville Mayor Hal Wing and Price City Councilman Richard Tatton. The Sage Riders wanted to show these officials: (1) An area that is threatened by closure. (2) An area that two BLM inventories had found to be not worthy of this most restrictive designation. (3) That some lands are best suited to the use of motorized travel. (4) That if this bill passes, the average person will be locked out of their public lands.
Four-Wheel-Drive (4WD) trucks, Jeeps, ATVs and motorcycles provide an opportunity for the average person to visit these remote and desolate places. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and all of the children can access these wild places with the assistance of motorized vehicles. Only a few people will ever hike through Lost Spring Wash if it is lost to Wilderness designation.
Supporters of Wilderness say that "we must preserve the land for our children." We ALL agree with that statement, but disagree on how best to "preserve" land. If the BLM's current multiple use plan has maintained 1.38 million acres in Emery County (over 60% of all BLM land in Emery County) to SUWA's high standards, then why should we abandon that plan? The BLM is charged with "management" of the land and it seems that they have done it well. Wilderness is a "hands-OFF" form of management. In contrast, Multiple-Use allows educated professionals to apply "hands-ON" management techniques. There truly are better ways to manage the land than with Wilderness designation.
On this beautiful October day nineteen people of all ages, including Congressman Cannon and three of his daughters, were able to enjoy our public land the way it is meant to be enjoyed. They touched it, they smelled it and they appreciated it because they were able to visit it. The beauty of the earth is to be experienced. We should not allow our access to be restricted to the point that we only see this beauty on the pages of a calendar or the screen saver of a computer.
With the help of Congressman Cannon we hope to defeat the "Red Rock Wilderness Bill." We must educate the public, especially those living east of the Mississippi River, that there is a better way to preserve the land for tomorrow's children while we share it with our children today.
Alan J. Peterson
Sage Riders Motorcycle Club
South Eastern Utah Off-Highway Vehicle Club