ST. GEORGE – The Bureau of Land Management St. George Field Office is accepting public comments on an environmental assessment analyzing a proposed land exchange between BLM and Brennan Holdings, LLC. The comment period opened April 5 and ends May 5.
If the exchange is approved, BLM would acquire private land in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve north of St. George near the Green Springs development and golf course. In exchange, developer Bob Brennan’s company, Brennan Holdings, would acquire approximately 605 acres of public land in Long Valley, just east of Washington City.
The proposed exchange is part of an ongoing effort by BLM, Washington County and the Habitat Conservation Plan Advisory Committee to acquire 1,288 remaining acres of privately-owned land within the reserve.
The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve was created 20 years ago to protect the endangered Mojave desert tortoise while allowing development to continue in the rest of Washington County. The Habitat Conservation Plan expired in March; however, the existing permit remains in place, and the renewal application process is ongoing.
Under the terms of the Habitat Conservation Plan, the remaining private property within the reserve must either be purchased outright or traded for land of equal value. Developer Bob Brennan is the largest remaining landowner, with about 800 acres still in the reserve. The proposed trade would exchange 605 acres in Long Valley for between 80 and 180 acres of Brennan’s property, depending on the appraised value of the two properties.
The Long Valley parcel is located in unincorporated Washington County land approximately 1.5 miles from the new St. George Airport, 6 miles east of St. George and just outside of the city limits of Washington City between Washington Dome and Warner Ridge.
The property is within the 40,000-acre Sand Mountain Special Recreation Management Area. However, it is not within the open travel area, and because of its location and physical features, it is not heavily used for motorized recreation, according to the environmental assessment.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires some level of environmental assessment when a public land transfer is made, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area manager Dawna Ferris-Rowley said.
Archaeological surveys have been ongoing on the Long Valley property, and Ferris-Rowley said some historic and prehistoric sites have been found, including structures built by the Leeds Camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
“These are CCC, 1930s-era soil erosion control features,” Ferris-Rowley said. “Stacks of rock in some cases or mounds of dirt used to kind of slow the water down as it was coming off the sides of the Hurricane Cliffs, the Warner Valley Ridge out and to prevent it from creating erosion on those parcels as it heads towards the Virgin River and the Washington Canal.”
Preserving these structures will be done digitally through a Historic American Landscape Survey using historical research, photographs and measured sketch drawings. The information will be sent to the Library of Congress.
“We’re losing people that have any recollection of that 1930s period and all the interesting things that the (Civilian Conservation Corps) were involved in, in saving the West, if you will, from erosion and deforestation.”
Prehistoric sites will require processing by archaeologists using traditional methods to preserve information and artifacts.
How to comment:
Comments can also be mailed or hand-delivered to:
BLM-Utah St. George Field Office
Attn: John Kellam
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, Utah 84790
Please reference “Red Cliffs/Long Valley Exchange EA” when submitting comments.
According to BLM, the most useful comments contain new technical or scientific information relevant to the proposed action. Comments should be as specific as possible. Comments which contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response but may be considered in the BLM decision-making process.
Before including an address, phone number, email address or other personally identifiable information in any comments, commenters should be aware that the entire comment – including personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. Requests to withhold personal identifying information from public review can be submitted, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.
For additional information regarding the proposed exchange, contact John Kellam at 435-688-3333. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf, or TDD, may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message or question for the above individual. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Replies are provided during normal business hours.
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