Comment period extended for Paria Canyon-Coyote Buttes reservation, fee changes

The Wave, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, not dated | Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip District Office is extending a public comment period on proposed changes to the Paria Canyon-Coyote Buttes Special Management Area Draft Business Plan.

The plan aims to streamline the permit reservation process and adjust fees areas in and adjacent to Vermilion Cliffs National monument, including the popular formation called “The Wave.” The draft plan was released July 15, and the deadline for comments has been extended to Oct. 16.

The extended deadline will provide the public with additional time to study and review the details in the proposed plan and submit comments to the agency. 

In this file photo, a hiker walks on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. The richly colored geological upheaval along the Arizona-Utah border is one of the most sought-after hikes in the West. But the Wave isn’t without dangers that led officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to implement a series of safety measures following a trio of deaths in 2013. A new proposal to change the way permits are doled out and increase fees also could free up more people to do safety checks. Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Utah-Arizona, May 28, 2013 | AP Photo/Brian Witte, File, St. George News
In this file photo, a hiker walks on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. The richly colored geological upheaval along the Arizona-Utah border is one of the most sought-after hikes in the West. But the Wave isn’t without dangers that led officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to implement a series of safety measures following a trio of deaths in 2013. A new proposal to change the way permits are doled out and increase fees also could free up more people to do safety checks. Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Utah-Arizona, May 28, 2013 | AP Photo/Brian Witte, File, St. George News

“Lots and lots of people are interested in visiting The Wave,” Rachel Carnahan, BLM Arizona Strip District public affairs specialist, said.

The proposed plan for the Paria Canyon-Coyote Buttes Special Management Area encompasses Paria Canyon overnight use, Coyote Buttes North, which includes The Wave, and also Coyote Buttes South.

“It takes a while to study it out, it is rather complex so we wanted to simply give the public a little more time to look at the proposed changes, and provide us with feedback,” Carnahan said.

“Those are all areas that are really popular with national and international visitors,” she said. Many visitors come specifically to photograph the spectacular geological formations.

Carnahan said the BLM has had a significant response about the proposal from the public already, and wants to give the public, both national and international, more time to hear about the proposal and to comment.

The Wave is so popular with international visitors that the visitor’s brochure has been translated into Mandarin, German, Spanish and French, Carnahan said.

“We want to give everyone the opportunity to hear about these proposals,” Carnahan said, “and to be able to read through that draft plan and then be able to comment.”

The plan proposes to streamline the permit reservation process by moving all permit operations for Paria Canyon Overnight, Coyote Buttes North, which includes The Wave, and Coyote Buttes South to a single, reservation portal on “Recreation.gov” beginning in early 2016. 

The plan would eliminate the existing next-day, walk-in lottery for Coyote Buttes North and move to a 48-hour online lottery, which would allow visitors to the Arizona Strip and Southern Utah to know in advance if they can obtain permits.

Dangerous beauty

Notch Canyon area where Richard Ong was located in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, May 11, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Kane County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Services, St. George News
Notch Canyon area where a lost hiker was found in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, May 11, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Kane County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Services, St. George News

Moving the system to Recreation.gov will also free BLM staff to provide critical face-to-face safety and weather updates to visitors.

There have been several hiking fatalities in the past few years, including a California couple in 2013, in spite of BLM’s continuing efforts to educate the public about the harsh conditions.

New trailhead signs went up following three deaths in 2013 at The Wave, more warnings were posted on a BLM website and safety brochures were translated for foreign visitors. An outside review found the BLM’s safety plan to be solid but recommended some tweaks.

There have not been any major incidents at The Wave since May 2014 when a lost hiker was found unconscious and out of food and water. He was rescued when a worker noticed his expired permit on display in his car in the parking lot.

Fee changes

Under the proposed plan, fees would change for each of the units. Fees for the area have not changed since they were first established in 1997.

The proposed permit fee change for Paria Canyon Overnight is from $5 per person per night to $10 per person per night. The existing fee for Wire Pass, Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon Day-Use is $6 per person per day. The proposed fee would decrease to $5 per person per day.

The proposed fee change for Coyote Buttes North and South is from $7 and $5 per person per day, respectively, to $12 per person per day for each area. The camping fee at White House Campground would increase to $10, up from $5, per night per site. A $6 service fee would also be charged by Recreation.gov for each permit issued.

The revised business plan does not change the number of permits issued per day.

The public is invited to provide feedback on the permit process and proposed fee adjustments, both of which are addressed in the Paria Canyon-Canyon Buttes Special Management Area Draft Business Plan, by August 17.

Comments may be provided by mail or in person at 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, or via email.

View a copy of the Business Plan and for more information on the Paria Canyon-Coyote Buttes Special Recreation Area here.

Related posts

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply