I would like to respond to the editorial letter entitled "USA-ALL vs. Emery County" by Ray Petersen that appeared in the May 18 issue. This letter raises several important issues that badly need attention.
The contents of the February 3, 2003 letter printed therein make it clear that the Emery County Public Lands Council has bought into the BLM's dominant management philosophy that vehicle assisted access to public lands is destructive and undesirable and is to be suppressed to the maximum extent possible. This course, if unabated, will surely lead to a future wherein the only access to the San Rafael Swell will be on the current graded and maintained county roads.
In the face of the arbitrary and illegal closure of 468 miles of public roads, the Council writes: "[we] wish to commend yourself and the staff of the Price Field Office on the completion of this truly complex task." This pandering only reinforces the BLMs contempt for vehicle access rights and will embolden them in the next round of closures. If it's OK to take one third of the roads in each new travel plan, how long will it be until there are no roads left?
On what basis can we justify allowing the roads to remain fallow after generations of abundant use while the ponderous legal system grinds through what could be an endless process? When the RS2477 rights are finally acknowledged the roads will have disappeared into a void from which the environmentalists will claim true wilderness.
The letter pays lip service to the Muddy Creek road saying it: "is a well documented and historically well traveled road," but then goes on to make the extraordinary statement: "We recognize the very real need to protect riparian and watershed resources." Any need to "protect" these resources does not trump an established right of way, even if banning vehicles provided some "protection," which, in this case it does not. The only real threat is the tamarisk invasion that has all but destroyed the native ecosystem and is being actively ignored by a BLM exclusively preoccupied by vehicle tracks in sand.
The popularity of vehicle based recreation and access on public lands is growing dramatically. In a rational world, we would be providing additional facilities for this activity, just like we do for other growing recreational pursuits. Each new travel plan should be looking toward new opportunities and recreational routes, not at how many existing routes will be closed. But in these matters the calculus seems to be invertedÃ¯Â¿Â½more demand equals fewer opportunities. The BLM's dominant culture is directed toward wilderness management to the exclusion of all other "multiple uses." The economic future of Emery County lies in access, not in wilderness.
Mr. Petersen calls the Utah Shared Access Alliance "extremist special interest advocates."I don't think so. Those who would seek to close 468 miles of public roads to further an agenda would be better deserving of this title. The preservation of the status quo is not extreme, nor is the desire to treat all people equally in allocating access to our public lands.