Located only an hour's drive east of Salt Lake City, the proposed Cedar Mountains wilderness offers hiking, horseback riding, photography, and nature study amid rolling hills, juniper woodlands, and rugged limestone outcrops. On the east side of the mountains the main ridge breaks into sheer cliffs. In addition to supporting about 300 deer, the Cedars support about 200 wild horses, upland game birds, both American eagles, prairie falcons, and an occasional mountain lion; the benchlands on the west side provide year-round habitat for antelope. Surrounded by desert playas, these mountains rise to 7,700 feet and offer outstanding views across the Great Basin, the Great Salt Lake, and toward the high peaks of the Wasatch Mountains.

Access to the Cedar Mountains from Salt Lake City is quickest by travelling west on Interstate 80 to the Delle exit. From Delle, a dirt road parallels the freeway on its south side for a little more than a mile, then cuts southwest, away from the freeway, and leads about nine miles to Hastings Pass. A hike along the trailless ridgelines south of here will take you into the proposed wilderness. Access to the western side of the mountains is also possible off Interstate 80.

Bands of Wild Horses

Exceptional views across Skull Valley toward the Stansbury, Lakeside, and Wasatch Mountains may be had looking east from the Cedar Mountains. To the west may be seen the Deep Creek Mountains, the Pilot Range, the Silver Island Mountains, and miles of open country. To the south are the House Range, Confusion Range, and Wah Wah Mountains. The landscape is vast and isolating.

Blonde grasslands at lower elevations in the Cedars are broken by many interesting outcroppings of limestone. The limestone occurs in colorful layers, an iron-gray stone alternating with rusty brown hues. An eagle nesting site was recently identified on one of these outcrops, and many raptors are known to winter in the area. At higher elevations the mountainsides are steep and peppered with junipers, which, because they resemble cedar trees, gave this range its name. Tabbys Peak is a colorful volcanic peak at the southern end of the unit.

The Cedar Mountains wild horse herd fluctuates from about 125 to 200 animals, according to the BLM's Pony Express Resource Management Plan and EIS (BLM, 1988, p. 26), while the resident deer herd is more stable at 300 animals. The Cedars also support a variety of smaller animals including coyotes, bobcat, and badger.

Seventeen archeological sites have been identified in the northern portion of the mountains, but the central and southern portions have not been inventoried. Most of the inventoried sites are lithic scatters, although one pictograph has been found. The historic Donner-Reed Party in 1846 passed through Hastings Pass on its way to California; and the explorer John C. Fremont used the route a year before.

Hazardous Wastes and Military Operations

Just west of the Cedar Mountains, Tooele County has defined a "West Desert Hazardous Industry Area" where several hazardous waste incinerators are being proposed. Although an improperly operated hazardous waste incinerator could also harm wildlife, vegetation, and existing high-quality air in the region, designation of our proposed wilderness would not prohibit the siting of the facility.

Phosphate rock occurs in the area but is probably economically infeasible to develop. Military electronic sites are proposed for high ground in the vicinity, but sites are available outside the proposed wilderness.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition Proposal

We propose a 62,100-acre wilderness in the Cedar Mountains; the BLM recommended none of its 50,500-acre WSA. The eastern boundary of the WSA is a nonsensical straight line. Our boundary follows topography and existing impacts more faithfully, as well as including important wildlife habitat on the benchlands. There are 11 privately owned sections in this area, and the BLM is attempting with the support of the landowner to acquire 7 of them through an exchange.

Mike Medberry