‘All routes should have a purpose’: Public input sought for travel management plan in Kane County

ST. GEORGE — The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public input through Nov. 30 to begin the travel management and environmental assessment planning processes for Trail Canyon Travel Management Area, which covers 182,760 acres in Kane County.

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments for the Trail Canyon Travel Management Plan through Nov. 30, Kane County, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

This planning process is an outgrowth of a May 31, 2017 settlement agreement, in which the BLM is required to issue a new travel management plan for the Trail Canyon Trail Management Area, according to a press release issued by the BLM. In addition, the BLM must also take a revised look at the designations assigned in 2008 and consider any additional travel-related impacts within the travel management area, including route proliferation, increased recreation use conflicts, habitat fragmentation and erosion.

Of the 1,402 miles designated in the 2008 Kanab Field Office resource management plan, approximately 501 miles of the routes are within the Trail Canyon Travel Management Area.

The proposed travel management plan will designate off-highway vehicle motorized routes only and will not create or designate any new nonmotorized routes. The associated maps for the scoping period represent six area-segments of the TMA: Red Knoll, Moquith Mountain, Parunaweap Canyon, North Fork, Canaan Mountain and the Sand Dunes.

David Hercher, public affairs officer for the BLM’s Paria River District, said in an email to St. George News that all proposed undesignated routes have been confirmed and verified by BLM and assigned a temporary identifier name that begins with “TC,” because those routes were identified to have a purpose and need that existed prior to the 2008 travel plan.

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments for the Trail Canyon Travel Management Plan through Nov. 30, Kane County, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“The purpose and need for these proposed undesignated routes range from access to private and public lands, to public access, to recreational opportunities and more,” he said.

He added that BLM only designates routes on BLM lands. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park boundary area is represented on the map of “the sand dunes” segment for reference. This proposed plan will only designate existing routes as either open, limited or closed.

“All existing route surfaces will remain as is, any change to existing surface of routes would require a site-specific EA, as it is outside the scope of this project,” he said.

Making sure there’s balance

Laura Peterson, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, told St. George News that the plan from 2008 really “skewed things” and prioritized off-road motorized use at the expense of other competing land uses and preservation of cultural, natural and biological resources.

“You can see that in the web of routes,” she said. “All routes should have a purpose, and that includes recreation, but it needs to be balanced with other competing land uses, and that just didn’t happen in 2008. So what we’re hoping is the BLM steps back and can better balance those competing uses.”

Stock image, St. George News

Peterson said the ultimate goal for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance regarding the plan is to have the BLM develop reasonable and manageable travel plans that are also forward-thinking. She said they plan to provide thorough information to the BLM during this scoping process to help them “get things right.”

The importance of this planning process is essential, she said, especially as public lands all across the state of Utah continue to see a rise in popularity.

“Public lands are busy, and they’re getting busier. ATVs and UTVs are really increasingly an issue on Utah public lands. There are more than 125,000 UTVs and ATVs currently registered in Utah, which doesn’t necessarily account for rentals or those coming in from out of state,” she said.

Because off-road vehicles have a significant impact on land, Peterson said this new planning process allows for an opportunity for the BLM to “step back and do things right.”

“You know, comply with the law and make sure that they’re really taking into account the impact of those designations,” she said. “No one is trying to get rid of off-road vehicles off public lands. It’s just that careful and deliberate planning about where those vehicles are allowed is really important.”

Peterson also said that making sure that routes can be managed with enforcement is important, so people aren’t going off route, which means that routes also need to be clearly marked so that off-road users have a clear understanding of where they can and can’t go.

The proposed plan is also necessary for the BLM to be in compliance with Presidential Executive Order 11989, which states that travel management plans must be developed to protect the natural resources of public lands while also minimizing conflicts among the various users of those lands.

Kanab Field Manager Whit Bunting said, in a press release issued by the BLM, that the travel management plan will provide certainty to users, encourage recreation access and protect resources by clearly identifying motorized routes in the Trail Canyon area.

“Through this process, the BLM is also analyzing the existing route network and applying management techniques that would minimize resource impacts,” Bunting said.

Submitting public comment

Information about the project is available on the BLM’s ePlanning website. Substantive feedback including new information or issues to be considered regarding specific routes will be most helpful as this process continues.

Input may be mailed, emailed or submitted through ePlanning:

  • Mail: BLM Paria River District, Attn. Trail Canyon TMP, 669 S. Hwy 89A, Kanab, Utah 84741
  • Email: [email protected] with the subject line “Trail Canyon TMP”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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