The long awaited release of the Bureau of Land Management's travel plan has met with mixed reactions in the county. Mark H. Williams from the Southeastern Utah OHV club said, "It is quite a blow to lose close to 468 miles of routes on the San Rafael Swell. This will hurt everyone and everyone will be effected; those using the Swell for recreation as well as cattlemen and Sunday drivers. There has been a lot of progress in Sids Mountain where sensitive areas have been closed for awhile. People are staying on those trails and there hasn't been any deterioration of the environment. I think the approach of proper signage and management could have been used with similar success in other areas of the Swell. Letting people know exactly where they can ride and where they can't is crucial. They could use this approach without closing routes. There hasn't been a map of the San Rafael out which showed people where they could go.
"One of the roads that has been closed which allowed access into Muddy Creek through the Reef will put ATVs still wanting to use the area, traveling along a main route with full sized vehicles. Anytime ATVs and full sized vehicles share the same road there are dangers present. Signs need to be installed which alert travelers on those routes to the presence of ATV traffic. The closure along the Muddy is a big concern to us.
"ATVs have gained in popularity through the last years. Increases of 12-25 percent per year are common. A big increase in sales of smaller vehicles for younger kids have increased by 28 percent. This has become a family recreational activity and the Swell is the chosen destination of a lot of these riders.
"Some of the dispersed camping spots will no longer be accessible. People used to go down dead-end roads and camp and they have shut off a lot of them. There will be a lot of work involved in signing the roads which are left open. The ATV community plans to be a part of keeping people informed as to which routes have been left open. People will need to take a map with them. Ignorance of the laws is not an excuse. This will be a big educational process for the public.
"The four routes which remain open on Sids Mountain concern me, I feel they might close them at anytime without prior warning. One of the things we can do to assure this doesn't happen is to abide by the rules for those routes and stay on the trails.
"They've also closed some of the roads west of SR-10 which is a concern," said Williams.
Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford said they will be putting together a calling list of questions and concerns to look at and address. He said the plan was not a surprise because it is similar to what the BLM has been talking about. "We'll have to live with it. We have 30 days to appeal the travel plan, we also will retain the right to appeal the closure of any RS-2477 roads at any time. There are hearings which will take place later in the year regarding RS-2477 roads. All the counties have been working together with the state on RS-2477. They hope to have it all put together by August afterwhich hearings will take place. We will do what we have to do. Hopefully they will leave those roads open or open them back up. There are roads out there that they've closed which we feel should be left open; multiple use roads.
"Periodically they examine the resource management plan, usually every 10 years and if they are still in the same mind set then as they are now then they'll work to close more roads. That's why the RS-2477 roads are so important, they should be left open and the county should have jurisdiction over them. President Bush is working towards letting the counties care for these roads with no arguments from the BLM and the forest service. He is currently working on the procedures these types of roads go through.
"The bottom line is this will be a continuing process, as far as this travel plan goes, it's a good one. They probably left more open than anticipated. It's acceptable, but some negotiations will need to go on," said Commissioner Kofford.
Emery County Commissioner Drew Sitterud said, "There are some problems overall, but it's not bad. We have lost some roads which we need to fight for, but it's better than it could have been. We do have some concerns here and there. I haven't studied the whole thing extensively yet and we are waiting for a map overlay which will make it more clear which routes have been closed, but one that jumped out at me was the Junes Bottom Road. That is our only access to the Green River and we would have to fight for that. It's an important route if the Emery County Search and Rescue are called out to those areas and I feel we need that road.
"I would like to see the county residents respectfully express their concerns with the travel plan to the BLM, there is a 30 day appeal process. I don't mean to tell them the whole plan stinks, but to just address legitimate concerns for specific areas and routes. I agree with the closing of duplicate routes, but there are some places out there that can only be seen by one route and I feel we need access to scenic places as well. I think we all agree that we should be allowed to use the Swell, but not abuse it," said Commissioner Sitterud.