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Front Page » July 8, 2014 » Opinion » Not just here, but everywhere
Published 84 days ago

Not just here, but everywhere


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

We spend a lot of time in this area being concerned about road closures on federal land. We also hear about closures in other parts of the state because Utah, like most places is somewhat egocentric when it comes to certain issues.

But be aware, this propensity of state and federal agencies to shut down popular spots for recreation, particularly motorized recreation, has reached new levels across the west.

I realize that the pressure on public lands is getting greater and greater. At one time the metropolitan areas in most of the mountain states were less than a million people and most were only in the hundreds of thousands. And at that time motorized recreation consisted of only a few jeeps and dirt worthy motorcycles. In the last 40 years this type of recreation has exploded in popularity.

As an old timer at dirt biking (beginning when I was nine years old on my dad's farm with a 1964 Cushman Trailster) I have seen a lot of the changes and what is going on. Most people are responsible riders, but as with everything, there are those few that ruin it for the rest of us.

I bring this up because I was reading the latest issue of one of our companies papers that is located in Wickenburg, Ariz. There on the front page of The Wickenburg Sun is a story called "Fight is on: Town appealing BLM closure of Box Canyon."

Box Canyon near Wickenburg is a canyon that everyone loves and uses. The paper had a picture of a man playing with his dogs in the stream there. The closure the BLM has decided on for that canyon is a seasonal one: From May 1 to Sept. 30 each year beginning in 2015.

The closure, according to the BLM, is because they want to let the plants in the canyon regrow and to protect the habitat of the yellow-billed cuckoo bird.

"People from not just Wickenburg but from all over who come and enjoy Box Canyon don't want me to back down," Wickenburg Town Councilman Kelly Blunt said because of his outspoken opposition to the plan. "They don't want things to change. And it would be devastating for our local economy if Box Canyon was closed off for any length of time because people come from out of town, gas up and buy food here just to play at The Box."

The council and others have been working with the BLM and others on a draft travel plan for their area and according to Blunt the locals were completely taken back by the closure because access to the canyon had never been mentioned in any discussions. The decision to close the canyon came from the local BLM director in what blunt called "an executive decision."

If this all sounds familiar, it should. How much is this like things that have been going on all over Utah for a long time. Some BLM offices work with better faith with the public and public officials than others. The one in Wickenburg apparently thinks a surprise closure is the way to handle things.

It is what we all fear will happen at all levels of the present federal administration. The BLM director in the Wickenburg area is one thing, but what about wholesale closures by the BLM at large or even a President using his power to either expand or create nationally protected areas with just his signature.

All of us who ride, hike, bike or travel through our federal lands should be concerned about every incident of closure no matter where it is. I really believe that we need protected areas and I have absolutely no problem with Wilderness Designations when they are proper and the area really is wilderness. I understand that sometimes closures are needed for such things as protecting migration routes, winter range and even to keep muddy roads from being ripped up, thus damaging the resource. But this kind of thing, out of the clear blue, with no dialogue whatsoever is an affront to our civilization and freedoms.

Clarence Darrow, the well known Monkey Trial lawyer once wrote "You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom."

It is up to all of us to support those that are fighting the fight to keep public land open, no matter where it is. We shouldn't only be interested in our own backyard.

Because if they take their right to access away, soon they will come and take our access away as well.

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