Ancient Passageway  

The Castle Country Heritage Plan

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Route/Recreation Plan Pie Charts
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Because none of the proposed alternatives in the draft Price RMP offers adequate wilderness protection (see below), SUWA supports the Castle Country Heritage Plan. This citizens' alternative offers solid solutions to the competing interests of preservation and development. It would protect special places like Nine Mile Canyon, Upper Desolation Canyon, the Price River corridor, the San Rafael Reef, the San Rafael River, Labyrinth Canyon and Sweetwater Reef from oil and gas leasing and development. These areas are all included within America’s Redrock Wilderness Act and contain stunning scenery, valuable wildlife habitat, and rare archaeological sites that reveal a record of early human presence dating back hundreds of years.

The Castle Country Heritage Plan would also protect areas in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act from the impacts of off-road vehicles like ATVs, dirt bikes, and modified jeeps and rock crawlers. It would provide opportunities to enjoy the natural quiet and beauty of the area, and provide places where visitors can get out of earshot of a dirt bike at full throttle. At the same time, 2,862 miles of trails would still be open to vehicle access.

Oil and Gas Drilling
While the BLM’s own internal surveys have confirmed that over a million acres within the Price area qualify for wilderness, the proposed plan does little to protect these natural wonders from oil and gas drilling. Instead, it leaves 98% of lands (outside of already protected wilderness study areas) that should be preserved under the Wilderness Act open to drilling threatening places like Desolation Canyon and the Book Cliffs.

Already, the threats to this world-famous landscape are great and growing. Oil and gas drilling and development are escalating despite extremely marginal returns in areas outside of established fields (see: Mark Lemkin's Analysis of Utah Oil and Gas Production, Leasing, and Future Resources). Such development leaves behind polluted drill pads, toxic sludge pits, and a large and unwieldy system of roads that are oftentimes bulldozed up the sides of steep canyons and blasted through ancient walls of rock permanently scarring this world-class scenery.

Off-Road Vehicles
ORV use has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. In 1979 there were roughly 9,000 registered ORVs in Utah. By 2000 this number had increased 900% to more than 83,000. During that period, southern Utah became a motorized recreation destination. Off-road vehicle use is causing loss of natural quiet, long-term and permanent impacts to soils and crusts, damage to rare and biologically valuable desert streams and springs, dust storms, and significant conflicts with other users.

There is an urgent need for the BLM to manage the hordes of ATVs and dirt bikes that descend on southern Utah every weekend before these spectacular lands are damaged beyond repair. The focus has to be on protecting those areas where ORV use is inappropriate and causes too much damage: areas proposed for wilderness under America’s Redrock Wilderness Act and fragile riparian areas where ORV riders have carved new, braided trails through vegetation and wildlife habitat.