The Heart-of-the-Redrock Heritage Plan

Heritage Plan Maps
Route/Recreation Plan Pie Charts

The 2.2 million acres of lands managed by the Richfield Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are spirited with rich Utah history.  Echoes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid reverberate through the canyons of the Dirty Devil; rugged and desolate lands around Factory Butte are reminiscent of the challenges met by Utah’s earliest settlers; and the Henry Mountains, the last mountain range to be mapped in the continental U.S, stand relatively unknown and unexplored. From the Henrys one can see the wide expanse of the heart of the Colorado Plateau: the  Abajo and La Sal Mountains, the sculpted walls of the Maze, the Book Cliffs, the jagged teeth of the San Rafael Reef, Waterpocket Fold, the aspen-dotted bench of the Awapa Plateau, and down into Arizona toward the deepest canyons of the Colorado River.  Surrounded by Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the San Rafael Swell, the lands managed by the Richfield BLM office are some of the most unique in the state of Utah.

The aim of this proposal is to care for the lands that make this area a unique extension of the surrounding parks and national recreation area by creating a balanced, sustainable land-use plan that continues to make sense decades into the future. The following plan solves user conflicts and ensures that environmental protections are considered, working to protect the undeveloped, highly scenic lands while allowing uses that cause greater impacts on other, less sensitive lands.

Transportation and Off-Road Vehicles
The Richfield BLM Field Office has never developed a plan for designating and enforcing off-road vehicle trail systems. As a result an unplanned network of trails has been created as the number of ORV users recreating on public lands has sky-rocketed over the last two decades. This has proven disastrous for many archeological sites, riparian areas, sensitive species, and formerly scenic landscapes. As the web of newly pioneered ORV routes has increased, the areas that non-motorized users value for quiet recreation such as wildlife viewing, horseback riding, bicycling and hiking have decreased proportionately.

The Heart-of-the-Redrock Heritage Plan contains a sensible, even-handed ORV route and recreation plan based on the following principles:

  • Vehicles should be restricted to designated roads and trails throughout the entire resource area In order to facilitate enforcement, there should be a "closed unless signed open" policy.
  • All routes should serve some compelling and identifiable purpose. If there is no compelling reason for a route to stay open, then it should be closed. (For example, old mining routes leading to nowhere should be closed.) Redundant routes should be eliminated.
  • The BLM is required by federal regulation to minimize conflicts between ORV users and non-motorized visitors to the area.  Trail designations must take this mandate into account.
  • Motorized routes that do the greatest damage to non-motorized recreational opportunities should not be designated open (e.g. routes which penetrate into otherwise roadless areas, or routes which interfere with popular hiking/biking areas).
  • Routes should not be designated in critical and sensitive wildlife habitats, riparian areas, or in sensitive soils.
  • The presence of roads and ORV trails exacerbates vandalism and looting of cultural resources found on Utah’s public lands.  Protection of archaeological sites must be a high priority.
  • Combining non-motorized and motorized users on the same trail system is a bad idea. No one likes hiking, mountain biking or riding horses on a trail crowded with motorcycles and ATVs. There needs to be a fair allocation between motorized and non-motorized users.

Oil and Gas
The threats to this world-famous area are on the rise, as the BLM has issued new oil and gas leases in sensitive areas.  This sacrifice of our few remaining wild areas might be justifiable if it resulted in significant quantities of energy, but in fact the opposite is true. According to USGS and Department of Energy studies, 95% of Utah's oil and gas production comes from a few developed fields. Geologists agree that there is no significant chance of an energy bonanza outside of these already developed areas.  If all proposed wilderness areas in Utah were filled with drill pads, it would extend our national oil supply by about 4 days and our natural gas supply by about 24 days.  This is clearly not a significant contribution to our national energy needs. Yet the BLM continues to encourage exploration and development in these extremely marginal areas. No sane person would consider this a balanced policy.  In short, BLM's current oil and gas policy sacrifices world-class scenery, recreation and wilderness in order to develop third-rate oil and gas deposits.

Citizens should urge the Richfield BLM to protect sensitive areas from oil and gas leasing, including areas proposed for wilderness designation, riparian areas, critical wildlife habitat, and archaeologically rich areas.