BLM open house draws diverse crowd, many concerns

ST. GEORGE – Conservationists, rock climbers, off-road enthusiasts and public officials were among the attendees at the Bureau of Land Management’s open house in St. George Tuesday.

The St. George Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management-Utah is conducting public open houses this week to provide the public with information about recently released draft management plans for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs national conservation areas. The public is invited to ask questions, give comments and voice concerns.

Tonight’s meeting is about information – the public interacting with my staff to learn more about what is in the resource management plan,” St. George BLM Field Office Manager Brian Tritle said.

The BLM presented its draft resource management plans to the public at the meeting, answering questions about the resource management plans and also accepting public comments.

It’s important for the public to understand that their comments matter, Tritle said. Each comment is read, considered and responded to, he added.

Informational booths at the open house covered a wide variety of issues, including: paleontology; archaeology; biology; off-highway vehicle use; grazing; lands and realty; and ACECs, or areas of critical environmental concern.

Northern corridor

Ivins City Mayor Chris Hart and City of St. George Mayor Jon Pike were both in attendance at the open house.

Both expressed unhappiness that the northern corridor route chosen by local transportation officials was not included in the resource management plans. The BLM’s preferred Alternative B (see below) doesn’t include any northern corridor route; Alternative D includes several possible northern routes, none of which are supported by local officials.

It feels like it’s being pushed in the direction of the will of a few people over the benefit of many people who will be impacted by this for years and years to come,” Pike said. “We will be weighing in with a letter from the City of St. George.”

Read more here: Northern corridor plans slighted in BLM’s draft area management plans

A northern corridor is an absolute necessity, both mayors said, because of projected growth in the west side of the St. George metro area and because of the unique geography of the area.

It’s not just speculation; we have data to show it,” Pike said.

“Transportation issues are solved by transportation modeling,” Hart said. “It’s very sophisticated now and it’s very, very accurate; and the modeling based on anticipated growth of SR-18 in Ivins and in west St. George absolutely establishes the fact that the traffic system without the northern corridor will be overwhelmed.”

Off-highway vehicle access

While it is important for the public to comment on the draft resource management plans, Outdoor Recreation Planner Dave Kiel said, the biggest part of off-highway travel planning is yet to come in a county transportation plan that will be released in three to four months.

Every acre of BLM-managed land has to have a designation of either open, closed or limited,” Kiel said.

An example of open travel is the Sand Mountain OHV area, Kiel said, where users can drive cross-country at will. Wilderness areas, on the other hand, are closed to both motorized and mechanized use.

“No ATVs, no trucks, no trailers and no mountain bikes,” Kiel said.

Right now, there are two additional designations “limited to existing roads and trails” and “limited to designated roads and trails,” he said.

“When we come out the other end of this plan, all those other acres that are not open and not closed will be limited to designated (roads and trails),” Kiel said. “So what we have done is we have gone out and inventoried every mile of every road, from paved roads all the way down to nonmotorized single track.”

In the upcoming county transportation plan, there will be three alternatives, with every road and trail  designated as open, closed or limited, Kiel said. “Limited” roads and trails could be limited to cattle ranchers or utility vehicles or ATVs, for example.

“But every single road and trail will be designated,” Kiel said.

Alternatives

The draft management documents contain four alternatives; summaries are provided in this report, and the complete draft resource management plans can be found here.

Alternative A (no action)

Alternative A (No Action) is required by the National Environmental Policy Act and serves as a baseline against which to compare the environmental consequences that could be associated with implementation of other alternatives.

Under this alternative, management for the two NCAs, and the public lands affected by the RMP Amendment, would primarily be derived from management decisions in the 1999 St. George Field Office Record of Decision and Resource Management Plan, as amended.

Alternative B

Alternative B, which is the BLM’s preferred alternative, attempts to balance resource protection and human uses of the public lands in the two NCAs and on public lands that are addressed in the Amendment.

For the two NCAs, management would focus on protecting native vegetation communities, wildlife habitats, cultural resources, and the scenic qualities of each area from threats, particularly loss or damage from wildland fires.

The restoration of damaged lands is also emphasized, and changes in livestock grazing management strategies in Beaver Dam Wash NCA are proposed. Sustainable public recreation uses would be managed through zoning of the two NCAs, permitting and the development of sustainable facilities that enhance visitor experiences.

Under Alternative B, in the Beaver Dam Wash NCA, an Old Spanish National Historic Trail Management Corridor is proposed and management actions are identified to conserve, protect and restore trail resources, associated settings, and primary uses within that corridor. Emphases would be placed on environmental education, interpretation and opportunities for citizen stewardship of NCA resources.

Alternative C

Alternative C represents an approach to the conservation and protection of resource values that emphasizes higher levels of restrictions on certain land uses and activities, while continuing to allow for compatible public uses.

Management of the two NCAs would also focus on protecting the ecological and scenic values of the NCAs from damage or loss to natural and human-caused impacts. Restoration of damaged lands would emphasize the use of native vegetation species and the least invasive methods to accomplish goals and objectives.

Under this alternative, public lands in the NCAs would not be available for livestock grazing in the Beaver Dam Wash NCA. This alternative identifies acres in each NCA that would be managed for wilderness characteristics and as heritage areas focused on the protection of cultural resources.

In the Beaver Dam Wash NCA, Alternative C proposes an Old Spanish National Historic Trail Management Corridor and identifies management actions to conserve, protect and restore trail resources, associated settings and primary uses within that corridor. Like Alternative B, this alternative emphasizes environmental education outreach, interpretation and scientific research.

Alternative D

Alternative D emphasizes a broader array and higher levels of public use and access, while still meeting the mandates of “conservation, protection, and enhancement” of resource values in the two NCAs.

Alternative D is the only alternative to mention a northern corridor and would designate a 6,350-acre utility and transportation corridor. The corridor would allow for location of new utilities through the national conservation area and for the development of Washington County’s proposed northern transportation route highway.

Alternative D emphasizes diverse and sustainable recreation uses of the two NCAs through the development of new, nonmotorized trails and visitor facilities.

Public lands within the NCAs would continue to be available for livestock grazing. Corridors would be retained or designated to accommodate new utility and/or transportation rights of way. Cultural and paleontological resources would be managed for conservation, scientific research and public use.

In the Beaver Dam Wash NCA, an Old Spanish National Historic Trail Management Corridor is proposed and management actions are identified to conserve, protect and restore trail resources, associated settings and primary uses within that corridor. Like Alternatives B and C, this alternative emphasizes environmental education outreach, interpretation and scientific research.

The Amendment to the St. George Field Office RMP addresses the mandate of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 related to biological conservation through the retention of eight existing ACEC designations and special management prescriptions for an approximately 87,000-acre area of public lands, labeled by BLM as the Bull Valley Mountains Multi-Species Management Area, to protect crucial habitat and migration corridors for mule deer, other wildlife species, and diverse predators in northwestern Washington County.

For details on open houses and comment period: What to expect at BLM’s open house about Red Cliffs, Beaver Dam Wash management plans

How to comment

In addition to commenting at the open houses, written comments will be accepted by letter or email until Oct. 15. The most useful comments are those that contain new technical or scientific information relevant to the proposed action, the BLM said its news release.

Comments should be as specific as possible. Comments which contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response but may be considered in the BLM decision-making process.

Please reference “NCA RMPs” when submitting comments to:

BLM-Utah St. George Field Office
Attn:  Keith Rigtrup
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, UT 84790

Email: utsgrmp@blm.gov

Before including an address, phone number, email address or other personally identifiable information in any comments, be aware that the entire comment — including personal identifying information — may be made publicly available at any time. Requests to withhold personal identifying information from public review can be submitted, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.

Open house details

  • Sept. 2, Wednesday | 6-8 p.m. | Hurricane City Offices, 147 North 870 West, Hurricane
  • Sept. 3, Thursday | 6-8 p.m. | Red Lion Hotel, 161 West 600 South, Salt Lake City

Ed. note: The spelling of “alliance” is in error on the video top of this story; that error will be corrected shortly.

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Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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1 Comment

  • beacon September 2, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Apparently Mayors Hart and Pike along with others are still crying about the Northern Corridor not being handed to them on a platter by the BLM. Actually, people who support the corridor idea can vote for the scenario that includes it if they choose. Frankly, for the mayors and others to insist their preferred road directly through the Reserve/NCA is a necessity is without merit because the transportation plans show that the majority of our county’s growth (population and jobs) will be in the southern and southeastern parts of the county. It seems that Mayor Hart wants the road because he’s the mayor of Ivins and wants quick access to his town no matter what the expense to WC taxpayers in general. Mayor Pike seems to be supporting him because, of course, that’s what mayors do: support each other so when the other guy comes around with his deal, his buddies are there to support him, too. Leaders who were involved in the creation of the Habitat Conservation Plan back in the 90s when the Reserve was established did not insist on this road being included in the plans (because it would not have been approved!), and now current leaders are trying to insist that it should have been all the time. Sorry, fellas.

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