THE COALITION PROPOSALThe 42 proposed wilderness areas described in the following pages encompass the wild heart of Utah's Basin and Range and Colorado Plateau regions. Twenty-one of these areas are divided into subunits separated by narrow road corridors. (Precedent for this clustering is found in wilderness legislation enacted previously by Congress.) Narrative overviews of each area discuss its ecological significance and management history. Each unit has a more detailed listing of its physical and biological features and the BLM and Utah Wilderness Coalition proposals.
This book does not attempt to be a hiker's or floater's guide (many published guides are available), but the maps, photos, and text ought to suggest a great many places to explore. We have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of our wilderness proposals by field-checking boundaries and researching BLM files. However, further incursions into some wild areas have occurred since our most recent field visits. The BLM does not notify citizens of new road construction or other development activities outside of its own wilderness study areas. Thus, minor boundary modifications (or, to the extent possible, restoration work) may be necessary where recent development has occurred within our proposal. Such intrusions only demonstrate the need for legal protection of wild areas under the Wilderness Act.
Although we fault the BLM's leadership for succumbing to industry's pressure to minimize wilderness recommendations, the BLM's field staff collected a great deal of basic information that we used in our analysis. Often the BLM's field data support conclusions opposite from those reached by the agency's leaders. Frequent reference is thus made to the seven-volume, 2,700-page draft environmental impact statement the BLM published in 1986. The final version of that document is expected to be published sometime in 1990. We have added advance information on the BLM's final proposal to the text.
Despite a decade of fieldwork -- our own and the BLM's -- there is still a great deal waiting to be discovered about the lands in our proposal. Which contain rare plants that could offer medicinal uses or new scientific knowledge? Which shelter prehistoric artifacts not yet wrecked by vandals? Which areas are critical wildlife habitat, and which are essential for the health of whole ecosystems? If we preserve the wilderness, we preserve more than outstanding scenery and backcountry recreation. We preserve the answers to those fundamental ecological questions.
Indeed, our own fieldwork since 1985 (when we first presented our proposal to the public) has indicated that there are additional BLM wild lands in Utah that deserve to be protected. We have added undeveloped lands at the edges of many units where our recent fieldwork indicated that human intrusions were minor. We have also added two small units (Nipple Bench in the Kaiparowits Plateau and Wild Mountain on the Colorado-Utah border near Dinosaur National Monument.) As Ray Wheeler explains in the preceding section, these additions, along with more accurate computer-generated acreage calculations, bring our total Utah BLM wilderness proposal to 5.7 million acres, up from 5.1 million acres in 1985. (Like the BLM, we do not include State lands in our acreage totals, although many State sections should eventually be incorporated into these wilderness areas.)
There has been much debate in Utah about how many acres of BLM wilderness should be protected. For too long this debate has focused on numbers instead of on the land. Acreage tallies -- whether the BLM's or ours -- only obscure the qualities of individual wild areas. You will find in the pages that follow an emphasis on the land itself, not on acreages.
Edward Abbey once wrote that "the idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders." Increasingly, however, it needs both. We hope that our descriptions of these wild lands will help you come to their defense with knowledge and with enthusiasm.