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Environmentalists Voice Concern Over New Travel Management Plan In The San Rafael Desert

Ken Lund


The Bureau of Land Management issued its new travel management plan for the San Rafael desert, and environmentalists are not happy.

The new travel management plan will significantly increase motorized vehicle access to public lands in the San Rafael desert. 

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is critical of the decision. Staff attorney, Laura Peterson, saidthe Bureau of Land Management is supposed to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources.

“We really feel like they did not do that here. And it’s unfortunate because this is a very special place and we don’t want to see it overrun," she said.

Peterson said there are about 300 miles of routes that are currently designated for motorized vehicle use, and this final plan will more than double that.  

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance believes opening up this much land to motorized vehicles will be destructive. The desert region includes red rock canyons, the San Rafael river and other wilderness areas. 

“We really had hoped that the BLM would have made a better decision here," Peterson said.

But the BLM stands by its decision. BLM Public affairs specialist, Rachel Wootton said the point was to increase recreational access and the agency took great care in designing the new routes. 

“This gives certainty to people where they can drive, where they can access this specific area," she said.

Wootton said the management plan is designed to keep people on designated routes while protecting more sensitive areas from damage done by vehicles.