ST. GEORGE — The Oct. 15 deadline for public comment on controversial land management plans in Washington County is fast-approaching and officials and residents are voicing their opinions through submitted comments and an online petition.
The management plans have been the subject of heated debate among residents, county officials and conservation groups. County officials say options in the plans go too far in restricting land use in the county’s two national conservation areas, while conservationists favor more restrictive elements of the plans.
The draft management plans affect some, but not all, BLM-managed land in Washington County, primarily the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash national conservation areas.
The land management plans were released July 16, and the 90-day public comment period is set to end Oct. 15. County officials have demanded an extension of the comment period, and local BLM officials responded by requesting more time from state BLM officials. The matter is complicated by a court order, and there is no word yet on whether an extension will be granted.
County encourages comments
County officials are urging citizens to weigh in on the issue through a comment form on Washington County’s website.
The county’s home page features prominent links to the comment form, titled “Click here to oppose excessive public land regulations specified by BLM’s Draft Resource Management Plans.”
The website suggests residents comment in favor of Alternative A, the least restrictive of the four alternatives listed in the draft RMPs. Alternative A reflects no changes from the current management and restrictions of the affected land.
The form is set up to allow users to easily and automatically submit comments to the BLM, either a short comment or an extended version. Both allow a user to add to or change the text of the comment before submitting it.
Almost 2,300 comments have been submitted through the county website, Washington County Administrator Dean Cox said. Almost 800 of the comments submitted were in the extended format.
Local conservationist voices
Local conservation group Citizens for Dixie’s Future is also encouraging its members and other interested parties to comment on the BLM’s draft management plans.
The group is suggesting commenters support Alternative C, the most restrictive of the four alternatives in the management plans. The suggested comment letter states, in part:
It affords the protection defined by the NCA designation in order to conserve and protect the scenic landscape and the fragile ecosystem while allowing light recreation such as hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, stewardship of trails and heritage/archaeological sites, etc.
The comment letter also condemns the northern corridor or any additional utility easements, calling them “extremely stressful to the ecosystem.”
Citizens for Dixie’s Future opposes any new transportation routes through the Red Cliffs Reserve/Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.
Online petition tops 112,000
An online petition against the proposed northern corridor reached 112,306 signatures Sunday morning.
The petition on CredoAction.com is titled “Tell Congress: No highway in Utah’s Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.” CREDO Action is an online petition website for social activism.
The petition was started by local conservation advocate Lisa Rutherford after Sen. Orrin Hatch proposed a bill in July — S. 1783 — which would amend the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.
The bill specifies that the travel management plan designates a northern transportation route and exempts the route from restrictions or requirements from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“(Hatch’s) action raised this to a national issue, in my opinion,” Rutherford wrote in an email. “He essentially decided to overrun the process that Congress had started in 2009 and was being worked at the local level by our BLM office. Because of his action, I was motivated to start the petition.”
Rutherford, who has served on CDF’s board and now serves in an advisory capacity, said the petition will remain active until it is determined that it should be submitted to members of Congress.
Because the petition went out over CREDO Action’s national network, people across the country had the opportunity to sign it, she said.
How to comment
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
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.
- Washington County comment letter
- Citizens for Dixie’s Future comment letter
- CREDOaction petition
- Citizens for Dixie’s Future website
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