America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act Has 141 Cosponsors in House, Hearing Held October 1st
H.R. 1925 would extend wilderness designation to 17% of Utah or 9.4 million acres in 200 units throughout to include:
• Westwater Canyon,
• the Henry Mountains,
• Grand-Staircase Escalante, which was previously designated a National Monument by President Clinton, several side canyons around the Glen Canyon Reservoir,
• portions of the land adjacent to the Green and Colorado Rivers in Canyonlands National Park,
• Labryrinth Canyon,
• Desolation Canyon
• most of the Book Cliffs and Uinta Basin,
• Lower Flaming Gorge
• and many other plateaus, mountain ranges and natural areas.
The map of the areas included in the bill show many pockets of proposed wilderness areas scattered throughout the region. On October 1st a hearing in the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands was held with Senators Hatch, Bennett and Representative Matheson, a Democrat, testifying against the bill as the lead witnesses. The entire Utah delegation opposes the bill according to media reports. The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Earth Justice, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are among the supporters of the legislation. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the local advocate for H.R. 1925.
The bill is not expected to pass Congress in its current form. However, a scaled down version to include some of the 200 proposed areas could pass if supported by the Utah delegation. The primary sponsor of H.R. 1925 is Rep. Maurice Hinchey, (D-NY), which means the bill will have tough sledding and ruffle feathers among local folks with no sponsors from the Utah delegation. Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Nick Rahall (D-WV), was not listed as a sponsor as of the end of September. The Salt Lake Tribune editorialized in favor of establishment of wilderness in some of the areas, but in smaller chunks with local input. The Tribune said 9 million acres was too much in one package.
Under The Wilderness Act, recreation would be one of the purposes for which the areas are managed. But not every type of recreation would be allowed. Mechanical transport is prohibited by The Wilderness Act with a few exceptions. Mountain biking would be prohibited unless specifically authorized for an area. However, historical motor boating and aircraft uses are allowed by The Wilderness Act, subject to restrictions and agency discretion as defined in the management plan and needs assessment (for outfitting). However, there is no assurance motorized, commercial raft trips could continue at current levels or at all. Recreational activities, which are not prohibited by The Wilderness Act, and that are approved in a management plan may continue.
The extent and types of outfitting activities will be based on “needs assessments”, capacity analysis and through consideration in NEPA. The managing agency will have to determine the extent to which each type of outfitting is necessary since commercial enterprises are prohibited in wilderness except as necessary to fulfill the recreational purposes of the Act. All the areas will automatically be included in BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, which was established by Congress earlier this year to preserve ecological, scientific and cultural values.
One note of interest for rivers, the Act preserves sufficient water rights for the wilderness areas as determined by the Secretary. Prior water rights are not impacted.
The Future of Outfitting in Wilderness and on Wild and Scenic Rivers
Did you know that the Forest Service is revising its Wilderness Management Policies and Wild and Scenic Rivers Management Policies? The National Park Service is also revising its Wild and Scenic River Management Policies and revising how it determines which visitor uses are appropriate. A special half-day program on the Future of Outfitting in Wilderness and on Wild and Scenic Rivers is scheduled for December 10th at the America Outdoors Association conference in Reno. Chris Brown, Director of Wilderness for the Forest Service, Gary Marsh, Deputy Director of the BLM Recreation Group, and Linda Jalbert, a member of the NPS Visitor Use and Capacity working group, will be panelists. A review of the legal issues and impact of the latest court rulings will also be covered. If you operate in wilderness or on a Wild and Scenic River, you have to be there. See the overall program Agenda and Register today.
Special note. Amtrak runs from Denver, Grand Junction and Salt Lake into downtown Reno. Catch the train to prosperity. Attend AOA’s Marketing and Management Conference, December 8 – 10.
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