Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Land Use Planning

Upper Desolation Canyon is one of many areas threatened by the BLM's flawed RMP process.

Every 15-20 years, the BLM is required by law to update the land use plans that guide agency staff in the management of our public lands. These plans, known as Resource Management Plans or RMPs, are something like city zoning plans that define which lands are open to development, where certain recreational activities can occur, which lands should be protected in their natural state, and so on.

In the final days of the Bush administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released six Resource Management Plans (RMPs) that now dictate how 11 million acres of iconic canyon country will be managed for the next two decades.  The plans — released in a last minute flurry — put the spectacular redrock landscapes of southern Utah on the chopping block by increasing oil and gas drilling at all costs and catering to the single-minded demands of off-road vehicle (ORV) enthusiasts.

The BLM’s Moab, Price, Richfield, Vernal, Kanab, and Monticello field offices are all affected by this latest round of planning.  At stake are some of the state’s most stunning landscapes — places like Desolation Canyon, the Book Cliffs, Fisher Towers, the San Rafael Swell, Parunuweap Canyon, Indian Creek, and many more.

One of the most high profile consequences of the BLM’s rushed planning effort in Utah was the controversial December 2008 lease sale, which threatened scenic landscapes near several national parks and put more than 100,000 acres of wilderness at risk. Equally insidious, though less reported on, is the fact that along with its approval of the six RMPs, the BLM also approved travel plans for each field office. These travel plans designated specific trails as open to motorized vehicle use (e.g. ORVs) on some of the state’s most sensitive public lands.

With the Obama administration, we have an opportunity to revisit and hopefully reverse these terrible planning decisions before it’s too late.