The Utah Wilderness Coalition is proposing an 78,800-acre wilderness in the King Top area of the Confusion Range, the largest of our proposed Basin and Range wilderness areas. Fossil Mountain, in the southern portion of the WSA, contains unique Ordovician fossils, which have special scientific and educational value. King Top Mountain, with an elevation between 5,000 and 8,000 feet, supports wild horses and antelope and is well used during autumn by deer hunters. Much of the area is a high plateau, rugged and sere, remote from human intrusion.

The King Top proposed wilderness is 50 road miles southwest of Delta, Utah, just south of Highway 6-50. Several minor dirt roads leave the highway near Kings Canyon and head south for a short distance to the northern boundary of the WSA. We recommend hikes in Cat Canyon, Little Horse Heaven, King Top Mountain, and Fossil Mountain.

Fossils and Solitude

The King Top area provides ample opportunity to hike, ride horses, hunt, observe wildlife, and backpack in an exceptionally primitive and seldom-visited region. Excellent rock collecting and fossil collecting opportunities are available on the 1,920 acres of Fossil Mountain the BLM identified as one of the world's most important collection sites for Lower Ordovician fossils.

Antelope, mule deer, wild horses, and chukar partridge live in the area. Two endangered species, the peregrine falcon and the bald eagle, also live here, as does the golden eagle, a sensitive species. The area accommodates a wide variety of indigenous animals but few in abundance because of the harsh climate. King Top is dominated by desert shrubs like shadscale, and by pinyon pine and juniper forest; on the high plateau Douglas fir is also present.

Although the area is well known for its fossils, little archeological survey work has been done to uncover cultural sites. The Fremont and Paiute-Shoshone Indians passed through or lived in the area for several thousand years, so the potential for significant finds is high.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition Proposal

We propose that 78,800 acres of the 84,770-acre WSA be designated as wilderness. The area is wild, desolate, and diverse, offering solitude to match anyone's desire. The BLM's consultant rated the potential for mineral, oil, and gas resources low (BLM, 1986). Nonetheless, the BLM did not recommend any of the area for wilderness designation. The rationale for the agency's proposal is unclear even in its own documents.

Of the 30 miles of vehicle ways within the WSA (which the BLM judged to be "substantially unnoticeable"), our proposal excludes 10 miles. Many of these ways are in the bottoms of dry washes that are occasionally scoured clean by summer thunderstorms. Our proposal deletes an area on the northern part of the WSA that is separated by a well-used road. There are no permanent intrusions within our proposed wilderness.

Given the area's size, remoteness, unique recreational and scientific resources, and the absence of permanent intrusions or other serious conflicts, the BLM's no-wilderness recommendation seems inexplicable. Recent assertions by prospectors that large deposits of disseminated gold lie within the WSA are, as yet, unproven. Regardless of mineral values, designation of a King Top Wilderness would serve the public interest well.

Mike Medberry