Friday, December 03, 2010

Environmentalists want to close thousands of miles of trails

Environmentalists are pushing to close thousands of miles of Utah’s off-road vehicle trails, and few places illustrate their beef with red-dirt riders better than Arch Canyon. The southeastern Utah landmark, west of Blanding, has a stream-crossing trail muddied by off-road vehicles and a well-known collection of ancient rock art and Puebloan ruins. Environmentalists want the trail and its 60 water crossings closed to vehicles to protect those resources from erosion and vandalism. Off-roaders want it to remain open so they can enjoy those sights. It’s also ripe for archaeological looters and vandals because of the easy access, SUWA says. The group previously asked the BLM to close the route, but the agency this fall rejected that petition. Now SUWA, which issued an unflattering report card Wednesday on the BLM’s management of off-roaders, is urging closures of about 15 percent of the 20,000 miles of routes that were designated in travel plans for 11 million acres in southern and eastern Utah. SUWA’s report card for the BLM’s management of off-roaders gives the agency a "D" in protecting the environment, an "F" in appreciating history and other cultures, but a "B" for improving on the freewheeling access the group says existed before the 2008 travel plans. SUWA already is suing the government over those plans, which designated about 20,000 miles of travel routes stretching from the Four Corners to Richfield to Flaming Gorge...more

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