OHV Community Responds to Agency Closures

The Lyin King

Public Lands Advocate

OHV Community Responds to Agency Closures

Dear BRC Utah Alert List Subscribers,

A story out of Vernal, Utah, just came across our news feed, and it's great news!

The OHV community in northern Utah is responding to closures by organizing for action.

The story, published in the Vernal Express, tells about how Uintah County residents have formed a group called the "Alliance for Public Lands Access" in response to proposed closures of public lands.

Locally-based OHV clubs and organizations are essential partners for groups like BRC and USA-ALL to help fight closures. And this new groups looks like it's got a head of steam going. Hundreds of folks stopped by a rally the group held last Saturday to sign petitions and express support for continued access to public lands.

We will forward more information about this group to our subscribers as it becomes available.

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition


Whose land is it?
"They act as if they are owners of the land, and they are not," declared Dan Deans, organizer of the recent rally held on the courthouse lawn to protest proposed changes to ATV trails and campgrounds.

Dozens of community members took the time to stop by the rally held Saturday afternoon, to sign petitions and voice their opinions about not only road changes, but about the unjust authority they feel the government is abusing.

"We're losing freedoms, and they're more concerned about erosion on mountains than erosion of our constitution" Deans said to the crowd as they reviewed large maps of current motorized roads that are in danger of being closed.

Uintah County residents have formed a group called the "Alliance for Public Lands Access," which hosted the rally and plans to take legal action against the Forest Service for denying access to public lands by disabled people.

While many attendees discussed their perceived overall abuse of power by the government, most just wanted to focus on the travel plan, and wanted their voices to be heard regarding the use of public land.

Enlarged maps showed current, past and proposed access to several mountain areas around Vernal. Participants poured over the maps to determine if their favorite trails would be closed, or if family campgrounds would be deemed off-limits.

Volunteer and concerned citizen Rian Martinson took a turn at the microphone, and said there are too many inconsistencies in the plans presented, and what the community is being told, by the Forest Service.

"At one time it was taking the campgrounds from 300 feet off the road to 200 feet, another time is was down to 150 feet. We just don't know what the truth is," she said. "But to have our government take away our land is a travesty."

Orlan Anderson is involved in several local groups that involve public land and recreating, including URATS, and the Uintah County Trail Coalition, and was on hand to help attendees decipher the maps and proposed changes.

"We've submitted more than 100 proposals, and only three have been adopted," he says. "I don't feel they took an adequate picture."

Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee agrees that the pleas of land users may be falling on deaf ears.

"My concern is that the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) process doesn't provide a wide range of options," says McKee. He says recreationists are willing to police themselves and help protect the forest, but under the proposed plan changes there will be less land for people to enjoy.

"I think we would all be the first ones to organize if we created a group to go on the mountain and help clean it up," he says. But the issue, according to McKee, isn't just the impact of having more people in the wilderness.

"What analysis has been done regarding the dust factor, safety, the impact on areas that become compressed? What does that do to the recreation experience?" he asked.

The Forest Service has been working on a new travel management plan for the Ashley National Forest, and has asked for the input of local land users. The initial comment period was extended by 45 days.


Published in the Vernal Express June 3, 2009.

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