St. George BLM Offers Plan Affecting 600,000 Acres in Washington County

Attention: I’ve just received this critical letter from the Washington County Board of Realtors (WCBR). Apparently, the St. George BLM Field Office is proposing a new Management Plan that will affect 600,000 acres in Washington County.

Among other things, it shuts down ATV areas, gives the BLM water rights, does not require collaboration with local government, and requires the introduction of California Condors. In general, it further restricts and closes public lands in the eastern part of Washington County. Here’ s a link to an article in the Spectrum:

Additionally, the WBCR has included an OPEN LETTER to all residents from the Washington County Commissioners:

Letter From Washington County Commissioners:

On March 30, 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. Title I, Subtitle O of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act specifically addresses public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Washington County, Utah. When the law was signed, it was championed by both sides and was considered a great compromise between wilderness, recreational, environmental, and agricultural needs.

The Act required the BLM to prepare a Management Plan for the land balancing the recreational, environmental, and agricultural needs. Federal law required the BLM to coordinate with local governments and with the general public when preparing The Plan. However, the BLM only had transient meetings with Washington County, no contact with any cities, no public meetings, or other input in preparing The Plan. Despite the BLM’s lack of public involvement, in July 2015, the BLM released the draft Resource Management Plan. The Plan is over 1114 pages and covers over 108,339 acres of land in Washington County.

After reading The Plan, the Washington County Commission is extremely concerned that the proposed Plan substantially deviates from the Public Lands Act, and fails to balance conservation, recreational, environmental, and agricultural uses. Specifically, the plan severely limits hiking, biking, camping, rock hounding, rock climbing, geocaching, grazing, horseback riding, paintball, hunting, shooting, ATV, and even remote control planes.

In addition to recreation, The Plan limits the cities’ ability to maintain and develop utilities, which includes the construction of power lines, natural gas pipelines, and water development. Specifically, the plan will stop access to several key aquifers where the cities acquire approximately 10% to 20% of their water. The Plan also prevents the chance to use the land for green development such as solar panels or geothermal.

You can read The Plan here . We are asking that you contact the BLM with your concerns. Ask the BLM to adopt the least restrictive option (Alternative A) that allows for greater use of the land. You may e-mail your response to utsgrmp@blm.gov, below is a template asking for the least restrictive option. Or you may send a general comment asking the BLM to choose the least restrictive option, here.

Please forward this email to anyone that you believe would be interested.

Washington County Commission: Allen Gardner, Victor Iverson, and Zachary Renstrom.

And finally .. here are a few comments from Hurricane Mayor John Bramall on the topic:

St. George BLM Offers Plan Affecting 600,000 Acres in Washington County

Of the 800 page document, here are some salient points that your people should be aware of:

  1. California condors are recognized and would be under the full endangered species act protection which can shut down and prevent developments in the area.
  2. Alternatives B, C, and D make the Bull Mountains a Multi Species Management Area (MSMA) This plan will cut out the largest ATV access area left in the United States, 87,000 acres.
  3. The BLM proposes an SRMA (Special Recreation Management Area) to replace the ERMA (Extensive Recreation Management Area). If you like recreating the ERMA which is currently in place, remains in place under option A.
  4. BLM directly and indirectly reduces grazing plans by A) retiring grazing permits. B) reducing utilization to 40% of available forage which increases fire danger and fire suppression costs. They also propose reducing grazing to 20 year averages rather than the agreed upon amounts. This punishes those who have been good stewards of the land.
  5. The new plans allow the BLM to obtain all water rights in the NCA’S (surface ground water and point source) and prohibit water from leaving the NCA. This would virtually shut down any and all future growth.
  6. Plan B, C, and D all eliminate the language requiring the BLM to work with state, county, and local governments. All comments should say that they support the requirement for the BLM to work with state, county, and local governments.
  7. Only one alternative plan for a northern corridor is considered. They show three alternatives but seem to be only amenable to one which really doesn’t move us forward into future years. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Agreement (OPLMA) requires a northern corridor and it has not been addressed to the level required.
  8. The BLM proposes three new ACECs (Areas of Critical Environmental Concern). These areas can be used as backdoor wilderness areas and can shut down development in those areas.
  9. The management plan expands the old Spanish Trail corridor from a trail to 12,500 acres of undevelopable land. This can impede and stop future right of ways, especially on old highway 81 and other corridors.
  10. Prior agreements and county and federal work with the BLM have already been addressed for wilderness characteristics and wilderness designations. why are we expanding and redoing that which has previously been done?
  11. Recreational uses that are eliminated in the resource management plan are collection of fossils and petrified wood, competitive equestrian and motorized events. This would shut down ATV Jamboree and Color Country horseman competitions. It also shuts down metal detecting and geocaching which is a hobby for many locals and visitors. It also outlaws take off and landing of remote control hobby airplanes. It also further restricts camping and OHV use.
  12. The BLM DRMP also recommends 1) closing grazing allotments 2) no new rights of way 3) only native seed planting 4) no wildland fire used for management of inappropriate grasses and trees.

As I said in the meeting, the only reasonable alternative I see in the draft plan is going with plan A which continues with what I call multiple land practices and use by humans of the areas. I hope this is helpful. You can get the full 800 page document from the BLM office. Remember the deadline for comments is October 15, 2015.

Thank you for all you do.

John Bramall

Hurricane City Mayor

Won’t you please take a second and click on this BLM link and tell them just how you feel about THE PLAN.

(Photo Courtesy of FoxNews)