The proposed Cougar Canyon-Docs Pass wilderness (29,400 acres) includes twisted, narrow drainages lined with lava and granite, and peaks densely forested with pinyon pine and juniper. This remote and rugged area offers outstanding opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, deer hunting, and trout fishing. The area, as one might expect from its name, also supports a healthy population of mountain lion. It is surrounded by wild country in Nevada's Beaver Dam State Park and by a 3,000-acre national forest roadless area in Utah's Split Pine Hollow, Pine Canyon, and Barn Pole Hollow. Beaver Dam Wash runs through the area and provides important wildlife habitat.

Access to the area is difficult by any route. Perhaps the easiest way is to drive northwest from St. George through Santa Clara and Shivwits to Motoqua. Proceed north up Slaughter Creek to the southern end of the roadless area.

Hunting and Fishing in Rugged Country

In its upper drainage within this proposed wilderness, Beaver Dam Wash is a cool stream slicing through granite and lava rock. The stream is flanked by riparian vegetation, and even in this reach of swift turns and twists, it forms emerald pools that are an invitation to swim or fish. Much of the area is covered with pinyon pine and juniper, although there are places where sagebrush and grasses dominate. The most diverse wildlife cover is found in the wash where thick brush, willows, and cottonwood trees flourish. A small herb, Epilobium nevadensis, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, also grows in the area (BLM, 1986).

Deer hunting is especially good here, and trout fishing can be excellent. Campsites, mostly remnants of autumn hunting camps, are plentiful, and adventurous hikers will be tempted to investigate the rugged interior of this proposed wilderness. The upper stretch of Beaver Dam Wash provides the only native trout fishery in the area. The creek may also support the Virgin spinedace, a fish that is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act (BLM, 1986). Archeological values in the unit are uncertain since little inventory work has been done.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition Proposal

We seek 29,400 acres of wilderness designation for Cougar Canyon-Docs Pass in two units. The area is remote from the sights and sounds of human activity, is entirely natural, contains significant wildlife habitat, and offers solitude to any who wish to find it. According to the BLM's DEIS (1986), "The only human intrusions in the WSA are from approximately 6 miles of range fences, a tree and shrub planting, and a study exclosure. Imprints are substantially unnoticeable and the 15,968-acre area is natural." Despite this, the BLM initially recommended none of the area for wilderness designation.

Elsewhere in its 1986 DEIS, the BLM makes the mystifying statement that " . . . the WSA cannot meet the scenic quality standard of section 2(c) of The Wilderness Act because such scenery is not unusual to southern Utah and Nevada . . ." Besides misinterpreting the Wilderness Act, which states that wilderness areas may (not must) contain scenic features, the BLM sets up a specious comparison to a region that is scenic throughout.

In response to public opinion, however, it is likely that the BLM will recommend 6,400 acres of the WSA for wilderness designation in its final report to the President. Even so, this recommendation fails to protect this important watershed.

The unit shows no potential for development of either leasable or locatable minerals. In fact, according to the BLM's DEIS (1986), there are no mining claims in the entire WSA. There are no known conflicts with off-road vehicle users in this area because of the rugged terrain and lack of vehicle ways. Our proposal abuts a National Forest roadless area surrounding Pine Park. The country here is wild and unspoiled; with no apparent conflicts and very high wilderness values, Cougar Canyon is a prime candidate for wilderness designation.

Mike Medberry