THE CONGER MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS

The Conger and Confusion Ranges are an odd jumble of hills, mountains, and rugged cliffs that culminate in the 8,000-foot summit of Conger Mountain. Creased ridgelines leading to a forested peak mark the view of Conger Mountain from the west, while the eastern side is sheer and rocky; more than a dozen canyons slice into the area. The Utah Wilderness Coalition is proposing a 20,400-acre wilderness area that embraces important habitat for antelope, deer, and wild horses.

Conger Mountain is remote and little known, but can be easily visited by travelling north on a dirt road that turns off Utah Highway 6-50 about 10 miles west of Kings Canyon (west of Delta). The road branches several times (a good road map is important) and continues almost straight north toward the southern end of Conger Mountain. From the south and east the mountain looks like the stern of a many-decked steamboat. Hike north from a developed spring below the mountain onto the dry, rugged ridgetop.

Little-Known Wilds

Solitude is easily found here, and primitive recreational activities include hunting, wildlife observation, hiking, horseback riding, photography, rock climbing, and fossil collecting. Shadscale and sagebrush dominate the vegetation at elevations below 7,000 feet, while juniper trees are found above that level. One sensitive species, Astragalus callithrix , a milkvetch, is found in the northern portion of the proposed wilderness (BLM, 1986).

A herd of 70 wild horses roams Conger Mountain, and the animals are often seen by visitors to the area. Conger Mountain also includes 16,000 acres of high-priority winter range for mule deer and 1,800 acres of high-priority yearlong habitat for antelope (BLM, 1986). The BLM recently developed a spring up Willow Spring Canyon inside the proposed wilderness for use by wildlife. Most of Conger Mountain is crucial yearlong habitat for the golden eagle; the bald eagle, an endangered species, also uses Conger Mountain. Ferruginous hawk, Swainson's hawk, and mountain bluebird, which are considered sensitive species by the BLM, also live in the area, as do red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons, kit foxes, badgers, and chukar.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition Proposal

We propose that 20,400 acres of Conger Mountain be designated wilderness. This area includes five miles of vehicle ways, four in the northern end and one in the southern end, which the BLM found to be "substantially unnoticeable" in its intensive inventory. But even this is misleading, as all of Conger Mountain offer outstanding opportunities for solitude because of the remote, rugged, and untrammelled terrain. The BLM recommends that none of the area be designated wilderness, despite Conger Mountain's naturalness and the absence of significant mineral or livestock grazing conflicts.

Mike Medberry

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