There are a lot of people in eastern Utah that aren't aware of it, but last week Judge Dale Kimball flipped all the planning and work that has been done on Richfield Resource Management Plans (RMP) between users and the Bureau of Land Management in Utah upside down.
Actually it's worse than that. He didn't only throw the baby out with the bath water, but he tore a hole in the side of the house and pulled out the entire tub too.
In a ruling that will reverberate into Carbon and Emery Counties very soon, he said that the Richfield RMP plan was flawed because the BLM didn't do enough study, enough diligence or enough to control motorized use in the area as it worked out the plan with locals a number of years ago.
Next up for those opposing all the RMP's that have been done in Utah is probably the one done out of the Price BLM office.
Environmentalists were delighted by the ruling. The Southern Utah Wilderness Associations website stated "It's a great day for Utah's redrock wilderness!"
They had joined with other plaintiffs (including the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Utah Rivers Council, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Rocky Mountain Wild) in suing the BLM for the plan right after it was established in 2008. Now they have an answer and are happy.
But let's see here...it's not the final answer.
Where the BLM will go from here no one knows for sure, but you can bet that the other RMP's in the state will be taken to task too.
The plans were developed during the administration of George W. Bush. Many think they were slanted toward development, motorized use and mineral extraction because of that political influence. Now, with an administration that is more sensitive to what SUWA and their friends want, the environmentalists feel that they are getting the upper hand.
But more worrisome to many groups than the RMPs is that President Obama will pull a Bill Clinton (the Escalante Staircase decree in 1990) style executive order just before he goes out of office in two years. Rumors are he could make Canyonlands National Park much bigger, create a San Rafael National Monument and plug other lands into other parks that will keep out all the other activities environmentalists want to eliminate from federal land.
SUWA runs ads nightly (usually a number of times) on all the upstate television stations. They talk about Utah wilderness, what our heritage is and should be and they show photos of happy families wading in streams, riding horses and examining rock faces apparently deep in the wilderness. It's a nice ad, a convincing one. It's aimed particularly at those from urban areas whose livelihood does not depend on these lands. For most of them it is a "visit the place once in awhile" kind of deal. It is not where they live.
If one reads the comment boards when legal actions like this are reported, it seems everyone in cities are convinced SUWA is correct. Some call ATV riders mindless people and worse. Some talk about the energy industry like they have no need for that industry themselves. Others want the lands protected at all costs because it is the right thing to do.
I wonder how they would feel if people in rural Utah were proposing laws that would eliminate their jobs? I wonder how they would feel if someone were threatening their industries and their recreation?
I am all for preservation up to a point. I think ATV riders (which I am) should stay on designated trails and be cognizant of others that use the land (such as hikers and bicyclists). I want oil and gas companies to be responsible for what they do and to keep their impact at a minimum. I want my grandchildren to see the beautiful places that exist in Utah and not have them spoiled.
Protection is important; but it must be mitigated with use as well.
This battle will apparently never be over. Depending on the political climate environmentalists will win during one time period, land use advocates will win during another.
For those of you that are used to neat tidy conclusions to things you will continue to be disappointed. It appears it will go on forever and ever.
Meanwhile our industries, our recreation and our way of life will be slowly strangled out of us as the courts go about their merry way of disregarding plans that took years to put together through the cooperation of many agencies and private citizens.
Prepare for a very long battle.