Archive | April, 2010

Utah fights to save state lands


April 30, 2010

  Salt Lake City –
Utah is itching for a land fight. A battle with Washington over territorial rights and state sovereignty. It wants to spark a revolt in which Western states attempt to wrest control of federal lands within their borders.

The Beehive State might just get its way, too. In March, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a controversial law authorizing the use of eminent domain to capture some of the millions of acres that the federal government owns here. The law was tailor-made to provoke a lawsuit, possibly reaching the US Supreme Court, and to inspire other Western states to enact similar legislation.

While it’s unusual for eminent domain to involve the taking of federal lands, this law is a byproduct of many Utahns’ frustrations: The US government owns more than 60 percent of the state, thus dictating whether land has been set aside for preservation or can be accessed for mineral deposits.

IN PICTURES: The Future of Federal Land in Utah

The law also comes amid a wave of states’ rights initiatives nationwide, which are challenging the federal government’s authority on gun laws and President Obama’s health-care reform.
“In this country, people are awake. They are seeing the encroachment of the federal government more than ever,” says Amber Harrison, an activist who traveled last fall to Washington from Vernal, in northeastern Utah. She advocates that the federal government offer more leases on its land for oil and natural-gas drilling.

The eminent domain law, Ms. Harrison says, “gives us the opportunity as a state to tell the federal government that this is ours and we know how to control it.” She adds, “We can take some of these public lands and put them back to work for us.”
Land disputes are certainly nothing new in the rural and rugged West. But many conflicts pitting preservationist against developer have become a central theme in Utah’s contemporary narrative – especially as education spending is cut, budget shortfalls climb, and unemployment persists.

Indeed, some blame the federal government’s barriers to development on mineral-rich public lands for keeping millions in associated tax revenues from flowing into schools. Utah has the lowest per capita student spending in America.

Over the past 15 or so years, the state has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against the expansion of federally protected land. The catalyst: In 1996, President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a 1.9 million-acre swath of southern Utah that the state had eyed for energy developments.

“One small section of the Grand Staircase has a trillion dollars in natural resources,” says Rep. Chris Herrod, the Republican state legislator from Provo who sponsored the eminent domain bill. “The people of Utah are being robbed.”

Then, last year, the Obama administration revoked 77 leases for development on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Utah. Many here saw it as a sign that more federal control was bound for Utah’s public lands.

What’s more, a recently leaked Interior Department memo suggests that two more sites in Utah could be potential national monuments, which would put them off limits to any development. That set off a firestorm of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said Mr. Obama was on the verge of orchestrating a massive and secretive federal “land grab.”

But according to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), more than three-quarters of the nearly 23 million acres of BLM land in the state is available for oil and gas development, even though only 1.1 million acres are currently in production.

SUWA is a leading advocate in Utah for greater federal protections of the state’s dramatic canyons, rugged cliffs, and lumpy stacks of gravity-defying red rocks. Like many preservationists, SUWA sees much of the state’s public lands as national treasures in need of conserving. It’s also advocating that much more of the state’s pristine canyon lands receive wilderness designation.

“We still have these truly wild areas, and that’s becoming a real rarity,” says Ray Bloxham, a SUWA field inventory specialist.

Mr. Bloxham recently flew with a reporter from Salt Lake City to Moab, an eastern Utah hamlet that serves as a tourists’ gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. From the window of a small airplane, Utah reveals its scenery: Snowcapped peaks slope into deep crevices that squiggle like centipedes across the landscape.

On the ground in Moab, a town once populated with uranium prospectors, residents largely rely on tourism for their livelihoods. If development isn’t tempered, they say, visitors may start going elsewhere.

“If you don’t set aside wilderness for the future, what will you have?” asks Theresa Butler, a river guide, shrugging her shoulders.

But Representative Herrod says he’d never advocate sticking an oil well in the middle of Zion National Park, one of Utah’s five national parks. But, he says, “I believe that we should manage the land. We are better stewards of it.”

Many legal scholars and environmental law experts say Utah has little chance of successfully defending its eminent domain law in court. But according to Herrod, the federal government is in violation of the 1894 Utah Enabling Act, which allowed Utah into the Union. In his view, the law stipulated that the federal government was to sell lands held in a public trust back to Utah.

“When Utah and other states came into the Union, they gave these lands up,” says Steve Bloch, an attorney for SUWA. “Trying to hang your hat on the language of the Enabling Act is a dead end. That is not going to be the basis for the state to survive a constitutional challenge in this case.”

Other states have tried similar tactics and failed. For example, the US government controls about 80 percent of the land in Nevada. In a case in the 1990s, the state argued that this violated the equal footing doctrine, which holds that states should be treated equally when admitted to the Union. A federal judge rejected the case.

For its part, Utah has set aside $3 million to cover legal fees to defend its eminent domain law. The state hasn’t tested the law yet, but it may do so next year.

The moment Utah begins plowing through federally protected lands, a Justice Department lawsuit will probably follow. Many states will be watching.

Link to article at The Christian Science Monitor

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The Gems’ narrow vision – Letter to Aspen Times


April 22, 2010

  Dear Editor:

To call the Hidden Gems (HG) plan as it was submitted last week to our U.S. representatives a true proposal is not accurate. It presents itself more like a marketing campaign. We would have expected something more substantial for what it is trying to accomplish. We hope that our state representatives will have the sense to see it for what it is.

This campaign is based on very narrow viewpoints of Wilderness advocates with little input from a much broader and balanced perspective from the general public. Throughout the 128-page HG plan for Summit/Eagle counties, there is no substantial evidence regarding the claims they are making for why these areas need Wilderness designation.

What’s the point of the HG when there is a Travel Management Plan (TMP) currently in process by the U.S. Forest Service? This TMP allows for thoughtful management and protection of the White River National Forest. Through 12 years of collecting data with regard to environmental and economic impacts, the WRNF has recommended, within its TMP, 82,000 acres for Wilderness designation. It has been in process since 1998 and has been designed to assess how we best utilize and manage our public/forest lands with respect to wildlife, forest health, watershed, conservation and uses within the forest.

The Hidden Gems campaign proposes an inappropriate amount of public forest lands to Wilderness designation without accountability, process, oversight and foresight. What do these terms mean in the context of the Hidden Gems campaign?

Process: The Hidden Gems campaign has no formal protocols for public input and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) processes. This campaign does not have any legitimate data, i.e. no environmental or economic impact studies associated in its proposal as to why it should exist.

Accountability: It is a simple campaign serving the personal objectives and ideology of a private interest group who have shown no substantial proof or plan as to what it will take to implement, maintain and enforce a Wilderness designation of this magnitude.

Oversight: There are no proven methods, processes or recommendations within their proposal for how these vast areas of forest lands proposed for Wilderness designation will be managed in the face of drought, fire, beetle infestation, noxious weeds, etc., not to mention the effects of aforementioned items on watershed.

Foresight: Our world is changing. There is no process or plan in place in this campaign as to how these lands will be managed with regard to the effects of climate change, population growth and community needs.

As representatives of the Colorado Backcountry Trail Riders Alliance, we support the stance the White River Forest Alliance is now taking in their opposition to the Hidden Gems due to premature submission of an inappropriate proposal to Colorado state representatives. The CBTRA has worked for several years to advocate responsible motorized use within the White River and Gunnison national forests. We will continue to work with the White River National Forest TMP teams in their recommendations for Wilderness and alternative designations.

Traci Schalow, Mike Thuillier, David Anderson

Link to letter at Aspen Times

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COHVO sponsoring 10th Annual OHV Management Workshop in June


April 22, 2010 (announcement date)
June 17 – 20, 2010 (event date)

  10th Annual OHV Management Workshop
“Making It Work: Where Do We Go From Here?”
June 17-20, 2010 in Gunnison, Colorado

This Special Workshop is FREE For Enthusiasts with FREE Lodging for qualified club reps.

Sponsored by the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) with assistance from: NOHVCC, BRC, US Forest Service, BLM and Colorado State Parks.

The purpose of this workshop is to assist the US Forest Service, BLM and other stakeholders in gaining knowledge and developing skills and partnerships that will result in long-term sustainability and improvement of trail systems.

The workshop is an educational forum with a combined audience of off-highway vehicle recreation land management decision makers, recreation planners, resource specialists and leadership representatives from Volunteer Recreational Enthusiasts Organizations.

This collaborative effort helps to build camaraderie and a sense of understanding among agencies and different user groups.

Land Management Agency personnel and can sit down one on one in a relaxed, educational forum and discuss local issues, and develop the needed contacts to interact closely on the status and implementation of designated OHV Routes with
Travel and Resource Management Planning.

Included will be educational discussions of OHV Management Techniques, Volunteer Stewardship, issues and general principles:

  • To develop the strategies and skills necessary to implement decisions made under the US Forest Service Travel Management Rule and BLM Resource Management Plans.
  • To improve working relationships and increase partnerships and resources between the US Forest Service, state and local agencies, the OHV industry, OHV enthusiasts, and other stakeholders to maintain and improve the designated route system on public lands.
  • To facilitate efforts to improve volunteer effectiveness, organization, and enthusiast involvement in trail system management by examining a variety of techniques to achieve required trail maintenance, monitoring and OHV trail signing protocols and principles.
  • To better understand the NEPA process and how to work effectively with land managers and make comments during the agency process.
  • A focused approach with an emphasis on sustainability of existing designated trail systems and building toward a future where the design, planning, and implementation of reviewed principles can help to create a successful trail system.

Check In and evening VIP Welcome Reception

  • Hors d’oeuvres and Cash Bar provided

OPTIONAL Thursday Sessions:

  • Trail Crew Leader, Maintenance and Construction Skills Training.
  • Certification in ATV and Dirt Bike Safety. 
  • OHV Sound Emissions Public Education and Awareness Training.


  • Agency & Enthusiast Classroom Sessions
  • Continental Breakfast and Lunch provided with planned Networking Dinner on own


  • Agency & Enthusiast Classroom Sessions and Location Rides with Field Discussions
  • Continental Breakfast and Box Lunch provided
  • Club Sponsored BBQ Donation Dinner


  • Enthusiast Tailgate Sessions and Location Rides with Field Discussions
  • Continental Breakfast and Box Lunch provided

Please mark this on your calendars and REGISTER NOW to attend.


For a more information, please contact:

Corey Corbett
Click Here to download a Registration Form

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Economic Importance of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation to Arizona

A study released by the Arizona State Parks in 2003

  Whether you enjoy exploring Arizona’s backcountry driving your truck, dirt bike or quad, or you prefer using your own muscle power to hike the trails, the following information may surprise you. In 2002, Arizona State University conducted a yearlong economic study of recreational off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in Arizona as part of the state’s OHV Recreation Program. Completed surveys included 15,000 telephone surveys and 1,269 mail questionnaires from randomly selected Arizona households.

The study findings show that the total economic impact to Arizona from recreational OHV use is more than $4 billion a year. OHV recreation activities provide an economic contribution to the state and its 15 counties mainly through direct expenditures for motorized vehicles, tow trailers, related equipment, accessories, insurance and maintenance costs.

Additionally, an economic benefit is generated when OHV recreationists spend money in local communities close to areas they recreate in for items such as gasoline, food, lodging and souvenirs. These direct purchases provide indirect benefits by helping to pay for many people’s salaries and wages, and contributing to local and state tax revenues. Specific information regarding these elements is available for Arizona and its 15 counties.

Arizona State Parks offers grant funding to assist in developing OHV facilities and signage, mitigating environmental damage and educating people about safe use of OHVs and about responsible and respectful behaviors to others and the

Download the PDF to read the entire report




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