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U.S. House National Parks Subcommittee To Consider Red Rock Wilderness Act Legislation


Despite its first congressional hearing Thursday, the Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009 remains a long-shot. Proposed wilderness is colored red, national park units pink. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance graphic. A bigger version can be found at this site:

Legislation scheduled to be taken up Thursday by a U.S. House subcommittee wouldn't create any national parks if passed, but it would go a long way toward providing some serious buffer zones around four national park units in Utah through the creation of officially designated wilderness.

For decades the Red Rock Wilderness Act has been something of a pipe dream for conservationists since it first was introduced in Congress back in 1989 by then-Congressman Wayne Owens of Utah. When he left office in 1992, he asked his colleague, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, to carry the legislation forward. Since then the measure has, quite frankly, gone nowhere while Rep. Hinchley worked on building support in Congress for it. On Thursday, the legislation gets its very first congressional hearing, when the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands takes a look at it.

None other than Robert Redford has come forward to urge passage of the Redrock Wilderness Act of 2009, which would designate roughly 9 million acres of wilderness around such places as Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef national parks, as well as around Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

"All of these lands -- some of the last great places on earth -- are owned by the public, but most of them remain vulnerable to industrial development. America's Red Rock Wilderness Act would protect them from oil and gas development, uranium mining, and off-road vehicle use. Meanwhile, hunters, anglers, hikers, and families could continue to enjoy these lands, including the renowned Cedar Mesa, San Rafael Swell, and the Book Cliffs," the actor, who lives in Utah, wrote in a column for the Huffington Post.

"This is our chance to be present at the creation. If we pass the Red Rock Wilderness Act, we can tell our grandchildren that we helped birth the latest Yellowstone. We can say we preserved treasures equal to Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks. We can add to the wilderness inheritance of future generations, and they will thank us for it."

The bill currently has 137 sponsors in the House, and 20 in the Senate. However, without any members of the Utah delegation, either in the House or Senate, endorsing the bill, it remains a long-shot to gain congressional passage.


Let's just lock up everything from OHVs, camp trailers and etc. Let's just literally kill any demand for these products and the supporting jobs behind them. You guys are so naive when it comes to recognizing where much of the money comes from to manage these areas in the first place. Seems like another clueless Liberal Democrat movement in the works. Seems you people are all for yourselves and without regard for any other interest, but your own. Bet you are believers in one religion, one language too. (Of course you wouldn't admit this.) Additionally, I doubt 5% of those pushing for this effort have really seen the true beauty of the outback. This truely validates my recognition that anyone can go to school to obtain their undergrad, graduate and doctorate degrees, but still lack any common sense intelligence. What a pathetic bunch. OPEN YOUR MINDS AND BE RESPECTFUL TO ALL, not just your self-centered group.

Feel better?

Perhaps you should go back and read the story. Mr. Anderson points out that even if all 9.4 million acres were designated as wilderness -- and that would be a stretch -- there still would be 17,000 miles of ORV trails in Utah. Any idea how many there are in Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, and the other western states?

Some things to ponder:

* The Chief of the US Forest service named unmanaged recreation, especially OHV recreation, as one of the top four threats to the nation's public land. Source: National Trails Training Partnership, a subsidiary of

* Outdoor Industry Foundation (OIF) began tracking participation among Americans age 16 and older in outdoor recreation in 1998 measuring 13 core activities including: backpacking; bicycling on paved roads, dirt, and single track; car camping and camping away from car; canoeing; cross country/Nordic skiing; hiking; rafting; snowshoeing; Telemark skiing; and trail running. Since the study began, OIF has added 9 additional activities including: bird watching trips; climbing on natural rock; artificial wall climbing; ice climbing; fly-fishing; non-fly fishing; sit on top kayaking; touring/sea kayaking; and whitewater kayaking.

Despite stiff competition for the attention, time, passion and resources of Americans, the 13 core human powered activities were more popular in 2004 than in 1998 by a wide margin. However, they were down from their high in 2001. A comparison of 1998 and 2004 participation levels reveal an increase of 6% and a net increase of nearly 15 million people as the Participant population for the 13 core activities grew to 141 million people. Over this 7 year period, participant levels were up for kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, Telemark skiing, and trail running. Three activities saw a decline over this period: backpacking, paved road biking and car camping. Consistent with prior years, the majority of participants recreated by biking, fishing, hiking, or camping. Source: Outdoor Industry Foundation.

* OHV recreation has become an important policy issue on public lands because these vehicles can have negative impacts on the environment by increasing soil erosion, decreasing water quality and impairing wildlife and visual aesthetics. Attempts to regulate OHV use on public lands are not new. Executive Orders E.O. 1 1644 (1 972) and E.O. 11989 (1977) addressed safety and environmental concerns with OHVs by authorizing the Forest Service to manage OHV use so as to protect the land as well as the safety of all users of those lands. Within the past few years, however, the Forest Service has recognized the need for greater authority in managing these recreation areas and has proposed to amend the OHV regulations in an attempt to mitigate unacceptable environmental damage to Forest Service lands (USDA Forest Service 2004). Source: From Benefits and Costs of Resource Policies Affecting Public and Private Land: Papers from the Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 14-15, 2005.

Finally, it's interesting that the above comment by "anonymous," and the "anonymous" comment on the "Clash of Viewpoints" post pertaining to those who "destroyed this country" mentions lack of consideration and respect for other opinions and yet, he/she doesn't appear to embrace that opinion.

There are many, many viewpoints and interests in this country when it comes to public lands recreation. Key in arriving at sound management plans is respectful discourse, dialog and even negotiation. And, too, I think it must be kept in mind that wilderness characteristics on that landscape is quite finite -- once it's gone, it's gone.

Wow, Anon, that's pretty harsh. All those of us who support designated wilderness are saying is that there ought to be a small portion of the American landscape that is free of mechanized recreation. In my own state of NM, the BLM manages 13.4 million acres, the USFS, 10.2 million acres, and the NPS,264,000. That's a total of approximately 23.6 million acres. Of that, 1,655,694 are in designated wilderness. And those 1.6 million acres are not "locked up." All wilderness says is that if you wish to recreate in those areas, you do it without motors.

As to your economic argument, backpackers still have to buy food, buy gas to get to trailheads, and motel rooms from which to stage their trips. All they are not doing is buying fuel to power their recreation.

Rick Smith

I wonder how many miles of singletrack will the cyclists lose in the process. Of course, it's not big deal because cyclists have so many more miles somewhere else to go ride, or so goes the argument...


Are you asking about single track that exists as a track already ridden, or are you asking about riding anywhere that isn't a wide enough track for a jeep, including cross-country over untracked land?

Looking at the bigger map, at least in the the areas I know, I'd say almost no single track is being closed. I don't think that there's single track on the west side of Desolation Canyon, nor on top of the Book Cliffs, where they're proposing wilderness. If you ride there, you're busting new trail over crust, and I have a big problem with that.

In the Moab area, Behind the Rocks WSA is included, as is Negro Bill Canyon, but the Behind the Rocks trail, Cane Creek, and the areas to the south where I know of single track are not in the proposed wilderness, nor are the La Sals. The mountains west of Price are wide open (I've only been there once, but it was great).

If there's extant single-track in the proposed closures, point it out. Existing single-track should be respected as non-wilderness. More single track riding trails should be established elsewhere on public lands in the Colorado Plateau so we can get away from folks when we ride. There's plenty of less-sensitive land left that BLM should designate for trail riding, and (slightly) develop (e.g., parking areas at trailheads). The majority of public land in the Colorado Plateau is not in current or proposed wilderness, even counting this proposal. But I think that large hunks of sensitive lands should be closed to our bikes as well as to jeeps and OHVs.

I never had the pleasure of riding in Utah, although I'll make it a point of doing so at some point. I take exception with your comment of lumping together OHV and cycling. There's a slight difference between a 2 ton SUV and a 30# bike. Last I checked we don't impact the land anymore than hikers.


I've heard that comment about mountain bikes not impacting the land any more than hikers, and I'd like to see visible proof of that. I'm not questioning your information or trying to spur an argument, but from personal experience, I don't see how that's possible. All the multiple-use trails I use (and where I live it's hiker-biker, with only an occasional horse) are quickly ground up by bikes, the top soil kicked off and the underlying rocks erupting. I just don't see how it's possible, with switchbacks and the braking that goes on on straightaways and going into turns, that mountain bikes don't have a greater impact than a hiker.

Perhaps Mark E. can weigh in on this.

First of all, being anonymous is the default, I have no problem telling you my name is Brad. What does that do for you anyhow?

Yes, Rick, this I was pretty harsh. If it seems over the top, you need to first understand my perspective. I've lived in Utah all my life and to see areas closed that my father introduced me to when I was a young kid really miffs me. These are not new roads/trails they are closing, but existing ones. They are closing areas that have created many of my memories, memories that I wanted to share with my own kids and them with their kids. The areas I complain about are rarely visited by tourists, hikers or mountain bikers. However, they are well known areas for camping and recreation. Other than hunters, I've never seen anyone hiking and rarely seen even a mountain bike in the area.

I couldn't agree with you more. There are millions of acres that are not 'locked up'. However, you need to recognize also that there are many more millions of acres that are already off limits to OHVs where nature lovers can always go to be alone without the company of anyone else for miles around. I'm not suggesting new roads or trails be built. And, no...there doesn't have to be a road or trail built that takes those of us with OHVs everywhere in our forests/parks. I'm not suggesting more access, but rather a preservation of what we already have.

I've done some hiking in the Uintas and surrounding areas to fish the back country. I can promise you, we have so much available land for hikers to disappear to their liking that the demand to lock up more land is more of a special interest campaign than one that has merit.

BTW, I apologize for the harshness. I just have some really strong feelings when it comes to taking away my opportunity to revisit cherished memories with my children.


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