Salt Creek
Salt Creek in Canyonlands National Park

Last Friday, in a major victory for the Greater Canyonlands Region, a federal judge ruled against San Juan County and the State of Utah in their bid to open an off-road vehicle (ORV) route in Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park.  The route was closed over a decade ago to stop engine oil and grease from polluting the stream and the destruction of wildlife habitat.

Salt Creek is an integral part of one of the most spectacular roadless areas on the Colorado Plateau, which includes our Butler Wash and Bridger Jack proposed BLM wilderness units (it’s all one area, but divided by jurisdictional boundaries).

We began this fight in 1989 when the National Park Service (NPS) decided jeep use could continue in Salt Creek despite the water pollution, soil erosion and damage to native stream-side plant and animal life. In 1995 we sued the NPS and won – and the agency eventually reversed its decision. Plants grew back, the water was clean, bears returned to the upper reaches of the canyon, and peace and quiet prevailed. Then San Juan County and the State of Utah sued, claiming an RS 2477 right-of-way existed up the canyon.  If the politicians had prevailed, it would have opened the door to claims by anti-wilderness forces on countless other remote and primitive ORV routes across the state.

Now two decades later we’re thinking bigger about protecting the entire Greater Canyonlands Region. This court decision is an important step towards accomplishing that.

Many thanks to Heidi McIntosh, SUWA’s associate director, who skillfully shepherded this case though the courts over the past two decades.  And thanks to you, for being a supporter of Utah’s redrock wilderness.

Protecting our public lands requires perseverance and together, we will succeed.

P.S. Help us continue to win victories for Utah’s redrock wilderness – please consider donating to SUWA today!

Scott Groene