If it is clear from the preceding chapter what wilderness designations do not do, then what are the reasons forpreserving wilderness? Protecting unspoiled scenery and opportunities for backcountry recreation are important, but in many cases other values are more important. Wilderness is also undisturbed watershed, habitat for wildlife, a hidden treasure of prehistoric cultural artifacts, and an immense natural laboratory for scientific research and education. Finally, there is a value to wilderness that may seem unrelated to our immediate needs and pleasures. A species that has altered so much of the Earth needs, out of humility if nothing else, to leave some land entirely undisturbed. Some call it respect for other forms of life; others call it an essential restraint upon our often self-destructive craftiness; still others identify a need to respect the original Creation. These values may have little currency in the marketplace, but in the end they may be more important than hiking trails and scenic viewpoints. Although one tends to lead to the other: a quiet walk in the desert, away from machines and material distractions, often engenders a healing peacefulness not easily found in our towns and cities.

This chapter, then, presents some of the fundamental reasons why our Utah BLM wilderness proposal should be enacted. This chapter also looks at Utah's national parks and their relation to BLM wilderness, and concludes with a plea for a reasonable balance between extractive uses of the land and its preservation.


The natural vegetation that once covered Utah's desert lands is today found only in a few small, scattered localities, typically where cliffs or lack of water has limited livestock grazing and other human development. These "relict" plant communities are valuable as genetic reservoirs and as indicators of the desert's original vegetation. By showing the productive potential of undisturbed land, relict areas help scientists measure the effects of development activities (Tuhy and MacMahon, 1988).

State and federal agencies have active programs (such as the Utah Natural Heritage Program) for identifying and protecting relict plant areas. A goal of these programs is to ensure that representative samples of all vegetation types are protected from logging, mining, vehicles, grazing, and other disturbance. Federal agencies are also required to identify and protect the habitat of threatened and endangered plant species, as well as to identify candidates for potential addition to the list of protected species.

Wilderness designation can enhance these programs by limiting mechanized uses and development on tracts of federal lands. The wild lands in our BLM wilderness proposal harbor at least 2 endangered plant species, 2 threatened species, and 17 candidate species (see individual unit descriptions for details). More species would likely be found if thorough field inventories were performed, particularly in areas the BLM did not study for their wilderness potential. At least 13 relict plant communities and several near-relict areas have been identified within our wilderness proposals; notable examples are discussed under the Grand Staircase area (No Mans Mesa), Moquith Mountain, Glen Canyon (Mancos Mesa), and Canyonlands (Bridger Jack and Lavender Mesas).

Of all human activities, livestock grazing has had the most widespread effect on natural plant communities in the desert Southwest. Wilderness designation does not reduce existing levels of livestock grazing. But the restrictions that wilderness designation places on road construction, mining, forest chaining, and off-road vehicle use provide an important additional overlay of protection to such areas. Wilderness complements administrative designations such as Research Natural Areas (which are often small areas surrounding particular plant communities) by placing further restrictions on human activities, restrictions that are not subject to administrative change.

Off-road vehicle use can have especially devastating effects on plant communities. Unlike large development projects such as mines and power plants, no site studies are conducted to identify rare plants before ORV riders blast off into the backcountry. Vehicle users tend to follow streamcourses and ridgetops that often are the specialized habitats of such plants. And tire tracks are death to cryptogamic soil crusts that anchor sandy desert soils and prevent erosion. Without wilderness designation, areas containing rare plants, such as the badlands surrounding North and South Caineville Mesas, are subject to severe ORV damage.

Wilderness visitors often seek spectacular views of canyons, rimrocks, and stone arches. But those who take a closer look at the land underfoot will notice a splendid community of life unlike that found on developed lands. Seeing the native grasses and shrubs of Utah's desert relict areas, uncontaminated with coarse, weedy species, is as much to be treasured as a golden desert sunset. And with proper protection, Utah's native plant communities need not simply fade away.

Fred Swanson


Native wildlife species are an integral and natural part of any wilderness area, as much a part of the ecosystem as trees and plants. The restoration of native wildlife populations dependent on natural habitats is one of the most important reasons for designating areas as wilderness.

Haven for Big Game

Wilderness designation will help those wildlife species that are sensitive to human intrusion and disturbance. Many types of birds and mammals found in wilderness cannot tolerate excessive human intrusion, especially during nesting, mating, birthing, and denning times. Wilderness provides a safe haven for large mammals such as the Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep, elk, bison, mountain lion, and antelope, all of which are found within Utah's desert wilderness. With fewer mechanized intrusions, natural vegetation can grow and native wildlife can return to and thrive in its historic ranges. The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has an active transplantation program for species such as desert bighorn. But such programs must emphasize the retention of natural conditions, not manipulation that favors some types of wildlife over others.

Rare Species

The desert lands proposed for wilderness are habitat for at least two dozen endangered or sensitive species that require specialized desert habitats. These range from the Gila monster, chuckawalla, and desert tortoise in the hot southwestern corner of Utah, to the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and endangered native fishes of the Colorado and Green Rivers. An unusually large number of endemic species (those found nowhere else) occur in the Colorado Plateau. This is a result of the region's diverse habitats including rivers, streams, and potholes; rocky cliffs and isolated mesas; and sand dunes, grasslands, upland forests, and alpine tundra. The Basin and Range mountains, isolated by salt flats and ancient glacial lakes, have also evolved endemic species such as the Bonneville cutthroat trout.

The large mammals found within Utah's desert wilderness include a majority of the big game species of the American West. Big game hunting is a major economic activity in Utah; backcountry hunts in the Book Cliffs or the Kaiparowits Plateau are as exciting as anywhere in the West. But nongame species are also important to Utahns. Mankind has to be the spokesman for all wildlife; animals cannot speak for themselves.

A Legacy of Wildlife

When all is said and done, the areas that would become wilderness will be those small islands of land where wildlife can survive mankind's relentless assault. Without man's help, the first casualty of today's society will be the wildlife. The chance to walk through wilderness areas and see the wildlife in their natural surroundings, where man is the visitor, is an important legacy for future generations. To insure our own survival and well-being, we must act now to prevent the loss of wilderness and the wildlife on which it depends; when they are in trouble, so are we.

Pat Sackett
Utah Wildlife Federation



The Coalition's proposed wilderness areas contain important archeological resources, including spectacular Anasazi pueblos in southeastern Utah and 10,000-year-old cave sites in the northwestern deserts. In between are Archaic foraging sites, Fremont villages, and dwellings of ancestors of modern Native Americans. People have lived in what is now called Utah for the past 11,000 or 12,000 years. The study areas contain portions of this record; their passage into wilderness will help ensure protection of our priceless heritage.

Utah prehistory is divided into four periods, each characterized by diet, dwelling style, and lifeway. The earliest is called Paleo-Indian, dated between 12,000 and 9,500 years ago. It represents the first great expansion of early populations in the New World. Paleo-Indians hunted large Ice-Age mammals, and were very mobile, living in small groups ranging over large areas in search of plant and animal food. They made beautifully flaked stone tools, including fluted projectile points.

With the extinction of large Ice-Age mammals about 10,000 years ago, human lifestyles underwent significant changes. Diet centered on smaller animals and a variety of wild plants. Populations were larger than in the Paleo-Indian period, but people still lived in small mobile groups. A survival strategy called foraging characterized this period, known as the Archaic. These people had remarkably stable relationships with their environments, since their basic lifeway changed very little between 9,500 and about 2,000 years ago.

The period following the Archaic is characterized by corn horticulture, pottery and settled village life, traits shared by Anasazi and Fremont cultures in the region. It was thought that these traits came into the area around 1,300 years ago, but recent evidence has shown that horticulture began in Utah about 2,100 years ago. Settled lifeways began sometime later, and pottery was introduced into the region around 1,600 years ago. The spectacular Anasazi sites in southern Utah date to between 900 and 600 years ago, or between AD 1000 and 1300. Fremont sites, while less spectacular, are equally important. They are found throughout Utah, and in portions of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada.

The Anasazi left southwestern Utah around AD 1100; they remained in the southeast until AD 1300. Where did they go? Southward, to become the modern Hopi and other Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico. The Fremont left somewhat later, around AD 1350, but their movements are more of a mystery. Some suggest they lived in northwest Colorado until about AD 1500, then moved onto the Great Plains. Others claim they stayed in Utah, changed lifestyles and merged with ancestors of the Ute and Paiute.

The most recent period, beginning around AD 1300, is called the Late Prehistoric. It is characterized by a renewed foraging strategy throughout the state, practiced by ancestors of modern Navajo, Ute, and Paiute peoples. The ancestral Ute and Paiute, speaking a Numic language, entered the region around AD 1100. The ancestral Navajo, speaking an Athapaskan language, entered the region much later, possibly in historic times.


Archeological Resources

Proposed wilderness areas in the northwest part of Utah contain some of the oldest sites in the state. These include sites in the Silver Island, Fish Springs, and Deep Creek ranges dating to Archaic, Fremont, and Late Prehistoric times. Several are on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). All mountain ranges in this region were used throughout prehistory for hunting, fishing, and gathering seeds.


The spectacular scenery in the Upper Paria, Kaiparowits, and Escalante areas is matched by remarkable Anasazi ruins. A little known Fremont component also exists in this area, but the relations between the two are unclear, making preservation even more important.


The Wah Wah Mountains and House Range contain similar evidence, with a broad range of known Archaic and Fremont sites. The Granite Peak area is one of the most important in Utah. It contains numerous obsidian quarries used from Paleo-Indian to Historic times. These have been heavily disturbed by casual collectors, so that virtually no large pieces of obsidian remain at most sites.


Moving southward, we enter the region of the Virgin Anasazi, centered around St. George and Kanab. Proposed wilderness here contains evidence of Anasazi and Late Prehistoric uses of landscapes around Zion National Park and the Vermilion Cliffs. These areas are little known, although some absolutely pristine cliff dwellings have been reported. They very much need protection.

The spectacular scenery in the Upper Paria, Kaiparowits, and Escalante areas is matched by remarkable Anasazi ruins. A little known Fremont component also exists in this area, but relations between the two are unclear, making preservation even more important. The areas are near Coombs Village (Anasazi State Park), an Anasazi site with interesting Fremont connections.

The Henry Mountains and Dirty Devil River areas contain diverse archeological resources. The Henrys contain evidence of Fremont foraging camps as high as 8,000 feet, and Fremont settlements have been studied on their northern slopes. The southern Henry Mountains contain early Anasazi storage and camp sites. The Dirty Devil and Labyrinth areas contain large Fremont habitation and rock art sites, as well as Cowboy Cave, with Ice-Age mammal, Archaic, and Anasazi cultural remains. The latter site yielded some of the earliest corn found in Utah.

The most spectacular Anasazi remains and rock art are found in the proposed White and Dark Canyon, Glen Canyon, and San Juan-Anasazi areas. White and Dark Canyon areas contain abundant early Anasazi high altitude camp and farming sites. These mostly date to the period between AD 1000 and 1150, when environmental conditions were more conducive to high altitude corn farming. The Glen Canyon area contains the relatively little-known Red Canyon cliff dwelling sites, as well as a wide range of farming sites on the mesa tops. Only a few Archaic and late Prehistoric sites are known from this region.

The San Juan-Anasazi area is the most popular region in the state for visiting Anasazi canyon sites. It contains some of the most important archeological sites in Utah, including those near Comb Ridge, in Fish and Owl Creek canyons, Arch and Mule Creek canyons, and, of course, Grand Gulch. The Bear's Ears, important in Navajo mythology, are landmarks visible from most mesa tops. A Paleo-Indian site was recently found near Bluff, and caves in the area contain remains of Ice-Age mammals.

The proposed Squaw and Cross Canyon area contains early Anasazi sites, as well as some of the latest, similar to Hovenweep sites on Cahone Mesa. Several rockshelter sites, as well as smaller Anasazi villages are known from the Canyonlands Basin area. This region is poorly known, but seems to have supported a large population between around AD 1000 to 1100. The general region near the Colorado River has produced several isolated Paleo-Indian artifacts, but no sites as yet.

Farther west, the Labyrinth area contains abundant rock art, mixing both Anasazi and Fremont styles. Few habitation sites of any period have been recorded in this area, partly because few studies have focused here. The opposite is true for the San Rafael area, where several important Fremont sites have been studied. Important rock art sites have also been recorded along the San Rafael River.

The areas around Moab and Arches National Monument are likely to contain small Anasazi sites, with some mixing in the area with Fremont. The Alice Hunt Site, Moonshine Cave, and the nearby Turner-Look Site in Colorado all show the presence of Archaic, Anasazi, and Fremont peoples in the region.

Northward, the proposed Desolation Canyon area contains a complex record of Archaic, Fremont, and Late Prehistoric habitation and travel. Large Fremont masonry sites are known from small canyons. Storage sites are found along the Green River, and the area contains abundant rock art. Historic Ute east-west travel routes through the area pass along the highlands of the Book Cliffs, where water was available. North-south routes followed the canyons.

The remaining areas, White River and the proposed Dinosaur Wilderness, contain Archaic and Fremont habitation and a few rock art sites. This region contains the latest Fremont habitation sites, which date well after the western regions were abandoned.



As the list illustrates, the most scenic areas in Utah are also some of the richest for important archeological sites. The proposed areas contain a great record of humanity.

Every site in Utah, however, is subject to destruction through vandalism, pothunting, and other criminal activities. At least three sites are destroyed by pothunters every weekend. Valuable information on others is destroyed by casual collectors every day. These are non-renewable resources! Other sites are destroyed by development, but most of these on public lands have been evaluated by professional archeologists. Inclusion in designated wilderness areas will help to protect many important sites for the enjoyment and study of future generations.

James D. Wilde, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Public Archaeology
Brigham Young University


Utah's BLM lands have a nationwide following, judging from the number of out-of-state license plates at desert trailheads. Most of this use, however, is concentrated in a few areas. Data from the BLM show that two- thirds of the recreational use of its 82 WSAs occurs in just 5 areas: Desolation Canyon, North Escalante Canyons, Phipps-Death Hollow, Grand Gulch, and Westwater Canyon.


It's important to have opportunities to be alone -- to experience a sense of connection with the land . . . The paved trail and the visitor-center approach has its place -- but it's a step removed from direct experience.

Karla VanderZanden
Director, Canyonlands Field Institute

The rest of Utah's BLM wild lands also provide surpassing beauty, are for the most part highly accessible, yet by and large are little known. Those with limited knowledge of this country can join a guided pack or float trip and have the adventure of a lifetime. More adventurous types can head into remote canyons and plateaus and find perfect solitude.


Only if we protect the full sweep of BLM wild lands will these diverse recreational opportunities be maintained. Designating wilderness in a handful of popular areas such as Grand Gulch and the Escalante canyons will only lead to permits and rationing as other wild areas become roaded and industrialized, and use is concentrated in a few areas.


Access for All

Hiking and backpacking is more popular in Utah than off-road vehicle use, according to 1980 State of Utah figures cited by the BLM (2.3 million visits versus 2 million). Furthermore, most vehicle use takes place on lands not being considered for wilderness designation, while most foot travel occurs in natural areas.

There is room for foot travelers and motorists in Utah's desert, but not in the same places. Some part of every wilderness area we propose may be viewed from a paved road, a car campground, or a roadside scenic stop. The Needles Overlook, for example, gives a superb view of our Canyonlands Basin wilderness; dizzying vistas lie right off Interstate 70 into Devils Canyon atop the San Rafael Swell; and Comb Ridge has a paved highway plowing right through it, just north of our proposed wilderness unit. Those with little time can find dozens of short hikes along gentle, sandy washes such as Calf Creek, Grandstaff Canyon, Beaver Dam Wash, and White Canyon.

Should more desert wilderness be roaded and developed to render it "accessible"? This approach would crowd incompatible recreational uses onto the same ground. Multiple use does not mean that hikers should have to listen to motorbikes, rafters should have to dodge motorboats, and backpackers should have to haul out trash hauled in on ORVs.

The fraction of Utah's landscape (about 15 percent at present) that is unroaded and undeveloped ought to be left to the voices of ravens and the occasional tromp of respectful feet.


Recreation Economics

Designation of wilderness would increase recreation-based employment, both in outfitting and guiding and in expenditures for equipment and supplies. Moreover, by preserving its wilderness, Utah will enhance its image as a desirable place to live. Outdoor recreational opportunities rank high among the intangible benefits that companies offer potential employees. Because salaries in high-technology fields are higher in other regions of the country, Utah must compete for job talent with resources at hand -- including its enviable natural environment.

Utah's BLM wild lands support a thriving small industry of guides and outfitters. The BLM notes that 47 outfitters use its WSAs. Such use could increase considerably if additional lands were designated wilderness. In Mancos Mesa alone, the annual income generated by commercial recreational use could increase to as much as $50,000, according to the BLM (1986, p. 26).


The Outdoor Classroom

At least 10 educational and outdoor adventure schools currently operate in Utah's desert lands. Their programs range from expeditions teaching desert survival skills to leisurely float trips. Participants include college students, retired persons, teachers, and business executives, spanning all levels of age, education, income, and fitness.

Several outdoor education programs make extensive use of Coalition-proposed wilderness areas. The Colorado Outward Bound School runs courses in the White Canyon, Dirty Devil, Labyrinth, and Behind the Rocks areas; the National Outdoor Leadership School uses the Canyonlands Basin, Dark Canyon, and San Juan-Anasazi areas; and the Canyonlands Field Institute runs about half of its programs in the Labyrinth, La Sal, and Westwater areas.

Studying plant and animal ecology, investigating archeology, and learning outdoor living skills are primary features of such programs. BLM lands offer the necessary pristine environment without the crowding and restrictions often found in national parks.

Whether one tests one's muscles against a difficult rapid, watches a canyon wren dart among the shadows of a sandstone boulder, or relaxes around a fragrant campfire while a wrangler tells tales of the Anasazi, desert wilderness has a reassuring sense of the real world. That function of the wilderness has proven useful in programs to rehabilitate alcoholics, drug users, welfare clients, and troubled youths. Wilderness is a powerful tonic for the troubled as well as for the healthy.


Restoring the Spirit

The opportunity to experience an elemental connection to primeval land is a basic right long treasured in this country. The need to restore the spirit in the wilderness was recognized by Utah's preeminent pioneer leader, Brigham Young, who exhorted his people to " . . . preserve the wild country. Keep it wild, and enjoy it as such. . . . The outdoor air is what people need for health, it is good for them to camp out." So long as we guard this birthright, using some lands to meet our needs, leaving other lands as the Creator made them, the earth will continue to sustain us.

Fred Swanson


How often have you thought, as you gazed across Utah's canyon country, that most of southern Utah could have been set aside as one huge national park? That in any other state, almost any chunk of this "ordinary" BLM land would probably bea national park?


A World Class Landscape

Southern Utah's canyon country is "world class:" a unique and unparalleled landscape. And while pieces of this superlative region have been preserved as national parks, crucial areas were excluded in drawing their boundaries. Those boundaries were all too often the result of political compromise, timid vision, and speculation about potential resource conflicts.

Other park boundaries were drawn narrowly to protect only specific scenic features -- the pinnacles at Bryce, the Waterpocket Fold at Capitol Reef, the rock "bridges" at Natural Bridges National Monument. Too often those boundaries disregarded adjacent park-quality lands.

The BLM wilderness review gives us another chance to protect these areas before it is too late.


Key Wild Lands Adjacent to the Parks

Among the BLM wild lands adjacent to Utah's national parks are the following, all proposed for wilderness designation by the Utah Wilderness Coalition:
  • Parunuweap Canyon and Canaan Mountain south of Zion National Park, and many smaller parcels abutting the remainder of the park such as North Fork Virgin River. Reservoirs are proposed in Parunuweap and North Fork canyons upstream of Zion;
  • Box Canyon and Squaw and Willis Creek adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park, as well as East of Bryce, which has many of the same erosional features as the park;
  • Fremont Gorge, Mt. Pennell, Red Desert, Colt Mesa and other units adjoining Capitol Reef National Park. A proposed dam in the Fremont River gorge would dewater a section of the river;
  • Bridger Jack Mesa, Indian Creek, Butler Wash, Labyrinth Canyon, Shafer Canyon and The Gooseneck next to Canyonlands National Park. Archeological values are noteworthy here;
  • Lost Spring Canyon, part of the view east from the Devils Garden area of Arches National Park;
  • The White Canyon wilderness surrounding Natural Bridges National Monument;
  • Bull Canyon, Daniels Canyon, and Moonshine Draw next to Dinosaur National Monument;
In addition, the proposed Labyrinth Canyon, Dirty Devil, Dark Canyon, Glen Canyon, Escalante, and Kaiparowits wilderness areas are adjacent to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Together these lands are the wild core of the canyon and plateau province, forming one of the Earth's last wild desert regions. To fragment these lands into arbitrary political jurisdictions runs the risk of losing regional integrity. Wild lands under Park Service and BLM management alike should be brought under the management principles of the Wilderness Act to ensure that the values people from all over the world come to see will remain unimpaired.


New Parks for Utah?

Proposals have been advanced by many groups and individuals to expand Utah's national parks or create new parks in areas such as the Escalante and the San Rafael Swell. There are many areas in southern Utah with superlative scenic, wilderness, and archeological values that deserve park protection. The increasing popularity of Utah's national parks also suggests that more parks are needed to meet public demand. Visitation to some Utah parks has increased as much as 20 percent in one year!

Some people promote the establishment of new national parks to increase tourism and promote local economic development. Long-term tourist benefits depend, however, on preserving the natural values parks are set aside to protect, and in preserving a visitor's opportunity to "get away from it all." Conservationists warn against overdeveloping and overcrowding our national parks. They recommend that new parks include wilderness designations, and that tourist facilities be built outside park boundaries, in nearby communities where existing businesses can benefit.

Creating new national parks in Utah offers one way to protect the outstanding natural values of the Colorado Plateau. So does Congressional designation of wilderness areas. What's most important is not that we choose to designate parks or wilderness areas or both, but that we choose to preserve Utah's natural wonders for generations to come.

Terri Martin


Utah currently has only 800,000 acres of designated wilderness -- a mere 1.5 percent of the State's land area. Most of this is national forest wilderness in the High Uintas and the Wasatch Range. Only 149,000 acres of designated wilderness are located in southern Utah's canyon country, where some 3 million acres of wild lands lack even the temporary protection of BLM wilderness study areas or National Park Service wilderness recommendations.

More than eight out of ten Utah residents believe that it is important to preserve some wilderness in Utah, according to a survey conducted in 1987 at Brigham Young University ( Pope and Jones, 1987). The study found "significantly high" support for additional wilderness designation for up to about 8-10 million acres -- about 15 percent of the state. Allowing for about 3 million acres of protected National Park and National Forest lands leaves about 5 million acres for BLM wilderness, which is close to the UWC proposal. The study also found that 79 percent of the respondents would support legislation to designate additional wilderness in Utah.

The wild lands managed by the BLM offer Utah's greatest opportunities for wilderness designations, yet this agency has fallen far short of its mandate. The BLM administers 22 million acres in Utah, yet it only studied 3.2 million acres for its wilderness potential, and has recommended just under 2 million acres.

In contrast to the BLM, the Utah Wilderness Coalition has identified 5.7 million acres of BLM wild lands that qualify for wilderness designation. Our proposal, if enacted by Congress, would bring the percentage of the state's land area designated as wilderness to 11 percent. Add to this the lands already having some form of protection (chiefly recommended wilderness within units of the National Park System), and a mere 16 percent of the State's land area would be protected from degradation. In a state renowned for its scenic beauty, this is an eminently reasonable proposal, befitting the great desert landscape of Utah.


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