Wilderness Acreage in Utah

dieselcruiserhead

16 Years on ExPo. Whoa!!
Two weekends ago was my third trip to Southern Utah in the last couple months and this time we were in the Swell with no restrictions on camping locations, etc, and how absolutely wonderful it was. Our area was pristine and beautiful and well kept despite being a high traffic area (less than a mile from Goblin Valley State Park). A few weeks earlier we were in Grand Staircase and I couldn't ride my mountain bike and it seemed extremely restrictive allowing hiking only. My wife has a bad knee from years of ski racing so she can only hike limited amounts so it basically made this area un-useable other than lots of driving which she doesn't overly enjoy either...

Anyway, it occurred to me to check how much wilderness we have. According to this Utah.gov page we have over 3.2 million acres currently while the Forest Service maintains another 750K or so for a total of just under 4 million total. I then checked the acreage of the entire state of Connecticut (I grew up back east for most of my life within miles of Connecticut and know it well. Some parts of Connecticut are still quite rural) and we have more designated wilderness in Utah than the size of the entire state of Connecticut.

Many of you know me as a fairly liberal person who also considers himself a fairly strong "environmentalist" (as of recently I've been putting hours in a week working on clean air issues in northern Utah). I have to say in my opinion, the last thing we possibly need is to triple our wilderness to the 9.5 million plus that is America's Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009. It is a real hassle - no roads, no trails for anything but on foot, no access, it is truly awful..

I feel like we need a new designation, something beyond "wilderness." Something that allows forjeep roads and trails for at least mechanized travel, possibly some single track for motorized routes. Some levels of protection and enforcement to preserve the quality of these routes. Some allowance of some sort of certified low impact drilling/oil extraction (mostly because I've seen incredibly low impact oil drilling in the Uinta national forest that was extremely impressive), banning of fracking but allowance of energy extraction such as natural gas or oil but in a method that must meet and be enforceable on these locations. And measures in place to protect Utah's general beauty, no high density development, mining etc, at least in these areas.. I guess in all very similar to my current experiences on BLM land but perhaps slightly more protected. Something that was a bit more of a multi-use practical application for much of this land. Something that preserves the characteristics of areas that could qualify for wilderness areas according to this page on the Wilderness Coalition page, but not in wide, 5,000 acre areas that could preserve smaller, off beat parcels as supposedly qualification of wilderness for wilderness study areas is that there are "no roads" (I know there is broad interpretation of this).

Does this seem to unreasonable to anyone? I'm curious almost why a designation like this doesn't exist.. Or does it and that is simple BLM ownership?

Curious on thoughts/comments and as usual just thinking aloud here. Are there errors in my thinking and judgement here? Perhaps this is a like minded approach that many of us could take, I figure...

thanks,
Andre
 

paulj

Expedition Leader
According to your link

In Utah, the U.S. Forest Service administers 774,520 acres of wilderness across the state, ...
The Bureau of Land Management administers two wilderness areas in Utah:

  • Paria Canyon Wilderness/Southcentral Utah/20,000 acres
  • Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness/Southwestern Utah/2,600 acres.
The BLM also administers 95 blocks, totaling 3,258,250 acres, of public land which are currently being considered for wilderness designation. ...
(my emphasis). 3.2m acres are 'under consideration' - mostly, I believe, in the Red Rock legislation (which isn't going to be acted on this year).

http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS
from Wilderness.net data
1,156,952 acres are designated wilderness in Utah, about 1% of the total Wilderness area in the USA. This is less than Florida or New Mexico, but more than Minnesota. As a percentage of state area, it is about 2% (also from a wilderness.net table). This is at the bottom for western states. California and Alaska are around 15%, Washington 10%. If Red Rock was added, the Utah area would be comparable to Washington's.

----------------
correction - looks like the 3.2m is in current Wilderness Study Areas
http://www.utah.com/playgrounds/wilderness_study.htm
 
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EMrider

Explorer
Many of you know me as a fairly liberal person who also considers himself a fairly strong "environmentalist" (as of recently I've been putting hours in a week working on clean air issues in northern Utah). I have to say in my opinion, the last thing we possibly need is to triple our wilderness to the 9.5 million plus that is America's Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009. It is a real hassle - no roads, no trails for anything but on foot, no access, it is truly awful..

I'd describe myself similarly and share your views. But that presents a problem. All the major enviro groups are lobbying for additional wilderness, and as you know, they have a lot of political clout. I do know of some smaller scale groups that are advocating a 'middle ground' status that preserves motorized access on established roads and trails. Those groups are getting my $$$ and support. Importantly, this 'middle ground' solution is almost always preferred by local communities who will see biz disappear with wilderness designations. Will search for some links with more info and post them up later.........too early now. This is inherently a political issue so wishing to 'keep politics out' of the discussion is simply naive. Reasonable people can and should disagree, and I'm open to other views.
R
 

1leglance

2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Here are my thoughts:

1) If there are roads/trails in an area leave them open.

2) If there are NOT roads/trails then close the area to new ones.

3) Heavy fines to generate enforcement money.

4) Slap around California, Arizona and any other state that take money out of OHV funds for other things....that kills what little money there is.

5) It isn't as much a we vs them as a we vs us issue. The OHV community needs to buck up and start self educating & more importantly self policing our wildcat, trash leaving, tear it up actions. If yoiu have ever seen something and not done something then you share the blame, that simple.
Get over the "they might have a gun" or what ever your excuse is and politely talk with your fellow OHV user.

6) Our community need to pressure manufacturers to do 2 big things:
A) change the ads from tear it up style to parked in pretty places style. Change the preception in the market from crazy mud slingers to seeing cool things
B) kick some only into the pot. Yahama does & polaris does....where are the other folks? PSA's, driver ed (land Rover has this) and more stuff in the public eye.

7) Sit down with the other side and see what we can agree on....if they want land that doesn't have roads let's help them secure that. Let's kill'em with kindness.

8) We need to bring public attention to every valuable use of a OHV. Sciencist studying wildlife, fire crews, medical, search & rescue, whenever something important or cool is doen with a 4wd we need a magazine/newpaper article or something.
Some of you are great writers and others are amazing photographers, but those talents to use.

I am all for the middle, now the question is, how does the other side feel?
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
pretty much this bit of Andre's sums it up:

"My wife has a bad knee from years of ski racing so she can only hike limited amounts so it basically made this area un-useable other than lots of driving which she doesn't overly enjoy either..."

I made a smilar point in a thread against the Omnibus bill and I made it with actual numbers from the Park Service. A very very small fraction of the public actually ever take out backcountry permits and hike in. I would also offer that most of them are predisposed to do so, being young, fit and many are already members of pro-wildernous groups.
 

maXTERRA

Adventurer
I'm very pro-access in my situation.
I have a nearly fully fused ankle from a serious accident over 20 years ago, so hiking very far is completely out of the question for me.
The SUV, motorcycle or:safari-rig::roost:ATV is my means of travel and access to the outdoors. I'm extremely nervous about the Redrocks and other proposals the radical enviros wish to impose, and especially in the current political climate weilding the clout they now have. :-(
I hope a middle of the road compromise can be found, but with groups like SUWA, there is no compromise at all
 

DurangoSteve

Adventurer
I'm very pro-access in my situation.
I have a nearly fully fused ankle from a serious accident over 20 years ago, so hiking very far is completely out of the question for me.
The SUV, motorcycle or:safari-rig::roost:ATV is my means of travel and access to the outdoors. I'm extremely nervous about the Redrocks and other proposals the radical enviros wish to impose, and especially in the current political climate weilding the clout they now have. :-(
I hope a middle of the road compromise can be found, but with groups like SUWA, there is no compromise at all

SUWA has compiled their wilderness "wish list," but they don't decide the ultimate content of this legislation. It's going to be negotiated in committee before it ever hits the floor. I would suggest that the bill as it stands is the "starting point" and there will be a lot of back-and-forth negotiations before it becomes law.
 

paulj

Expedition Leader
Regarding Wilderness Study Areas
http://www.utah.com/playgrounds/wilderness_study.htm
Vehicles (including motorcycles, dune buggies, and all terrain vehicles) and mountain bikes may only travel on ways and trails which existed at the time of the 1980 wilderness inventory. ...
Do you currently use these open trails to enjoy the backcountry of existing WSAs?

How about cherry stemmed roads within designated Wilderness Areas? Any favorites?
 
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sami

Explorer
You want-to-be-gun-toting hillbilly hippie liberal who is now anti-(increased)wilderness.. ;)

1LegLance hit the nail on the head 100%...
 

Rando

Explorer
I think you need to put these numbers in context. Even 4 million acres of wilderness represents a fairly small portion of the 38 million acres of public lands in Utah, just over 10%. Almost 90% of public lands in Utah are NOT managed as wilderness, and you can ride your bike, or your ATV, or OHV. I enjoy both exploring in my Tacoma, and exploring on foot. I guarantee it is much harder to find a wilderness area to experience remote peace and quiet than it is to find somewhere to drive off road.

I don't agree that ALL of the lands suggested by SUWA should be wilderness (some don't meet the standards of wilderness) but I definitely think there needs to be more of a balance between wilderness and non-wilderness both in UT and nation wide.

Anyway, it occurred to me to check how much wilderness we have. According to this Utah.gov page we have over 3.2 million acres currently while the Forest Service maintains another 750K or so for a total of just under 4 million total. I then checked the acreage of the entire state of Connecticut (I grew up back east for most of my life within miles of Connecticut and know it well. Some parts of Connecticut are still quite rural) and we have more designated wilderness in Utah than the size of the entire state of Connecticut.

Many of you know me as a fairly liberal person who also considers himself a fairly strong "environmentalist" (as of recently I've been putting hours in a week working on clean air issues in northern Utah). I have to say in my opinion, the last thing we possibly need is to triple our wilderness to the 9.5 million plus that is America's Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009. It is a real hassle - no roads, no trails for anything but on foot, no access, it is truly awful..

I feel like we need a new designation, something beyond "wilderness." Something that allows forjeep roads and trails for at least mechanized travel, possibly some single track for motorized routes. Some levels of protection and enforcement to preserve the quality of these routes. Some allowance of some sort of certified low impact drilling/oil extraction (mostly because I've seen incredibly low impact oil drilling in the Uinta national forest that was extremely impressive), banning of fracking but allowance of energy extraction such as natural gas or oil but in a method that must meet and be enforceable on these locations. And measures in place to protect Utah's general beauty, no high density development, mining etc, at least in these areas.. I guess in all very similar to my current experiences on BLM land but perhaps slightly more protected. Something that was a bit more of a multi-use practical application for much of this land. Something that preserves the characteristics of areas that could qualify for wilderness areas according to this page on the Wilderness Coalition page, but not in wide, 5,000 acre areas that could preserve smaller, off beat parcels as supposedly qualification of wilderness for wilderness study areas is that there are "no roads" (I know there is broad interpretation of this).

Does this seem to unreasonable to anyone? I'm curious almost why a designation like this doesn't exist.. Or does it and that is simple BLM ownership?

Curious on thoughts/comments and as usual just thinking aloud here. Are there errors in my thinking and judgement here? Perhaps this is a like minded approach that many of us could take, I figure...

thanks,
Andre
 

cruiseroutfit

Supporting Sponsor: Cruiser Outfitters
LOL, thats all I've got time to say right now Dre' but I will chime in later. The math hasn't changed, the restrictions haven't changed... now that you've had a chance to explore these areas its become personal to you. Sometimes thats all it takes to open the eyes.

Real quick though. There absolutely is designations beyond Wilderness, do some reading into the proposals by BRC that are alternatives to Wilderness yet offer Wilderness like protection as far as the extractive industries yet don't lock out users.
 

cruiseroutfit

Supporting Sponsor: Cruiser Outfitters
The BRC's proposed 'backcountry' land use designation does not offer 'wilderness like' protection. Besides environmental protection, wilderness designation provides places for people to escape from mechanized man.

50+ years of mechanized use in these areas hasn't precluded them from still offering Wilderness like experiences and obviously hasn't eliminated them from having the qualities some feel is needed to meet the Wilderness definition. I guess I'm missing what protection is lacking in terms in terms of what Wilderness will offer.

Sharing every trail with an adventure bike or ATV is something most horses and hikers would rather not do and most land managers realize is a recipe for accidents in popular areas.

You paint with a very broad brush. Utah's current designations don't allow motorized use on every trail, quite the opposite. There are thousands of miles of trails not open to motorized use. But when a trail has historic motorized use, ie a Jeep road cut to an old mine in the 50's... is it fair to make that a hiking trail? As an avid hiker I loathe hiking on 8 foot wide paths anyways.

You speak of accidents. Show us some proof. We do have mixed use trails all over the state... accidents on the trail have not proven to be even a minor issue.

It's too bad the BRC is not persuing specific protection for vehicle access corridors and OHV transportation networks that demonstrate the need of OHV users and how it can compliment wilderness preservation. Imagine if the membership and power of BRC was directed in this way...they could document important routes for the overlanding community and areas serving the thrillcraft community instead of fighting losing battles with the wilderness groups.

Your diligence in research precludes you. BRC (specifically Brian Hawthorne) did try to work with the Wilderness issue and even proposed their own Wilderness designation that would have shared millions of acres with the AWRA bill. However the were very clear that no compromise could be made. SUWA's Heidi Macintosh insisted that they work with too many partners on this project to try to compromise with one group would be impossible.


I guess the problem with that is the lawyers and organizational leaders wouldn't be able to draw much of a salary if there wasn't such a dramatic fight:sombrero:

While I can't put on my "Pro-Wilderness" grin and discount my impact on the earth like you seem to be able to... I can agree with you that the overwhelming problem with this Wilderness issue is the giant fundraiser it has become. The idea of Wilderness is far more invigorating to ones checkbook than Wilderness that already designated.

I have to ask agavelr, how much time have you spent in the areas that would be affected by these Wilderness closures? When you were there enjoying said areas did you take into consideration you are apparently part of the problem you support fixing? Assuming you agree these said areas need Wilderness protection, protection from guys like you, how do you continue recreating such as this?
 

cruiseroutfit

Supporting Sponsor: Cruiser Outfitters
So who are these 'middle ground' groups???

The Utah 4 Wheel Drive Association to start. They are 100% volunteer, commit thousands of hours to service and stewardship each year and are working proactively with land managers to prevent closures.

Keep in mind the BLM is easy to work with on the Wilderness issue... they have spent years and years inventorying Utah's wild lands and only find 1/3 of the acreage the Citizens inventory apparently found.
 

teotwaki

Excelsior!
"By the way, this land belongs to all of us, not just Utah residents"

Goody, so much for the rights of the States. As someone who supposedly owns the land too, my vote is for NO MORE Wilderness designations until things are sorted out to the satisfaction of OHV'ers, not just pro-Wilderness types.
 

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