By Charles Pekow
Will bike trails in East-Central Utah get a protective barrier from mineral and energy development? And will the mountain bike trails outside Moab become easier to bike to? These questions are before the public right now and the cycling community and everybody else is welcome to weigh in.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public input on its plans for about 785,567 acres in Grand and San Juan counties. The BLM opened a public comment period on its proposals for resource development the area south of I-70 east of Green River and bordering Moab and next to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The area also includes Indian Creek/Lockhart Basin/Hatch Point between Canyonlands and Hwy. 191.
The BLM is also seeking comment on a plan to build a new trail linking Moab with existing trails on its land. The BLM says it expects an increase in recreation in the area (see accompanying article).
The BLM is writing an area plan, which bears the official breathtaking name of the Moab Master Leasing Plan & Draft Resource Management Plan Amendments/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Moab and Monticello Field Offices in the Canyon Country District. The plan is designed to regulate oil, gas and potash leasing rights. But it also includes provisions to protect recreation from the effects of resource extraction.
As is customary when putting plans up for public comment, BLM is offering four alternatives to balance recreation with energy and mineral development, environmental protection and scenery. (All plans could get amended based on public comment.) Its standard Alternative A, called the “No Action” alternative, would pretty much leave policy as is. It would do nothing more to promote or protect bicycling.
Alternatives B and C include several options that could expand mineral development but protect highly used recreation areas. And then, BLM presents Alternative D, its “preferred alternative,” which would provide for more oil, gas and potash leasing but protect more recreational areas, including lands next to the national parks. B and D would prohibit resource development within half a mile from all the existing bike paths, including the Klondike Bluffs, Bar M, Ahab, Magnificent Seven/7 Up, Lower Monitor and Merrimac bicycle trails. Alternative C would put a one mile protective barrier around the trails. Alternative D, however, includes a loophole saying the local BLM chief could waive the protection if he determines the people are no longer using an area or trail for recreation, it wouldn’t hurt the experience of trail users, or no practical alternatives exist to build access roads or pipelines from drilling sites.
For details, see http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/MLP/deis.html. BLM is taking public comments any way you want to send them. Submit your ideas, preferences and any new information by Nov. 23 online at http://www.blm.gov/21jd, email them to [email protected], fax to (435) 259-2106, or snail mail them to BLM, Canyon Country District Office, 82 E. Dogwood, Moab, UT 84532, Attention: Brent Northrup.
BLM notes in a press release “that the most useful comments are those that contain new technical or scientific information relevant to the proposed action. Comments should be as specific as possible. Comments which contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response but may be considered in the BLM decision making process.” Label your comments “Moab MLP.”
BLM has scheduled three open houses at which the public is welcome to attend and talk with staff. They take place 4-7 pm, Wednesday, Sept. 23, Grand Center, 182 North 500 West, Moab 54532; 4-6 pm, Thursday, Sept. 24, Monticello Public Library, 80 N. Main St., Monticello, 84535; and 4-7 pm, Tuesday, Oct. 6, Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City 84111.
BLM is also considering a plan for Washington County (see August 2015 Cycling Utah) and more is on the way. BLM says it will issue proposals this fall for the San Rafael and Cisco deserts. These plans would also include some protection for biking trails from resource development.