Friday, October 23, 2015

St. George makes case over BLM plans for conservation areas

In the six years since the Bureau of Land Management started drafting management plans for the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Areas, St. George City Manager Gary Esplin said he never had any communication with agency. So on Thursday, as he and members of the St. George City Council finally had a chance to voice concerns with a BLM representative, he couldn’t help but voice frustration at the lack of involvement local governments have had in the process. “We haven’t been asked about the Northern Corridor, or any of the utility needs, anything,” Esplin said Thursday as he and other city officials visited with Brian Tritle, the recently-installed field manager of the BLM’s St. George Field Office. Tritle inherited a firestorm when he was hired two months ago, shortly after the agency released its Draft Resource Management Plans for the two conservation areas. He spent much of Thursday’s meeting absorbing the myriad issues council members have with the proposals, which a majority of local officials have argued will limit access and harm quality of life. Sticking points have included whether a “northern corridor” roadway could be built across the Red Cliffs area, whether grazing and OHV use should be further restricted, and whether the land should be made available for a potential reintroduction of the endangered California Condor. Councilwoman Bette Arial, who sat in on some of the meetings — as an employee for the BLM — in the 1990s when many of the negotiations that led to the existing plans for the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, called the new draft plans an end-around all of the common ground that had been reached over those years...more

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