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Arch Canyon to stay open for vehicles, says BLM decision

BLM Monticello Field Office Manager Tom Heinlein issued a decision on Oct.13 that motorized use of the Arch Canyon road can continue.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) filed a petition with the BLM in 2006 to close the road. Heinlein also announced that the agency would begin developing a recreation management plan for Arch Canyon to help improve visitors' experience of the area.

The decision was made after months of study to determine if motorized use in Arch Canyon was causing serious adverse effects to the fisheries, riparian, and cultural resources.

The BLM reviewed the information submitted in the SUWA petition, as well as new information developed through additional studies.

The review found that:

* Arch Canyon supports a perennial stream that is habitat to three species of fish. The BLM and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conducted genetic and sampling studies. The BLM also conducted water quality monitoring, invertebrate sampling and an assessment of the hydrologic system. The studies found that the habitat is supporting successful reproduction and development of all life stages of native fish, and the isolated disturbances to fish habitat as a result of motorized vehicle crossings are minimal compared to the natural alteration from frequent flash floods.

* Riparian (creekside) data show the stream system is functioning properly. The canyon's response to high floods illustrates the health of the system and shows it to be stable.

* The BLM also conducted new inventory of Arch Canyon's cultural resources, documented several sites, and reviewed existing data. The archaeologists found that human foot traffic was causing some damage to some sites, but that eliminating motorized access would not resolve these problems.

In announcing his finding, Heinlein noted that "the BLM recognizes that more intensive management of visitor use is needed in Arch Canyon, and is initiating a recreation management plan for the area."

He added that the plan will address how to improve visitors' experiences to Arch Canyon and could consider "a permitting system, establishing foot paths where they will not damage archaeological resources, monitoring, providing site etiquette information, inventory of resources, designating camping areas and other measures."

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