The United States Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments in connection with an environmental assessment analyzing alternatives for establishment of a vehicle access network on portions of the San Rafael Swell and the surrounding region.
The Price BLM office recently released the environmental impact assessment for input.
According to acting field manager Tom Rasmussen, the objective of the San Rafael route designation plan focues on establishing a vehicle network to provide recreational and other access to public lands while protecting sensitive natural and cultural resources.
The proposal implements a decision reached by the BLM in 1991 when the federal agency completed the San Rafael resource management plan. The 1991 land use plan directed BLM to identify and designate specific vehicle routes within "limited use areas" where vehicle are restricted to designated roads and trails. The plan affects more than 1. 1 million acres of public lands.
Approximately 90 percent of the area recently proposed for national monument designation by Gov. Mike Leavitt lies within the San Rafael route planning area, indicated the federal agency.
Rasmussen described the long-awaited travel plan as an evolutionary process that has benefitted from a high degree of public interest and participation.
"We've had citizen-based working groups, previous draft proposals, thousands of cornments and multiple inventory efforts conducted by BLM, Emery County and interest groups. All this homework has paid off. We have a solid document ready for public review and we are welcoming comments prior to making a final decision," explained Rasmussen.
Four alternatives with specific objectives designed to resolve conflicts and concerns with resources and manageability were analyzed, pointed out the federal agency. Alternatives range from designating all 1,074 miles of inventoried routes to designating 580 miles of inventoried routes.
The BLM's proposed action - 663 miles of inventoried routes - safeguards natural and cultural resources and the values of specially designated areas while providing a recreation access network which includes loop route opportunities, indicated federal officials.
To solicit public comment on the environmental assessment, more than 450 notification letters to individuals and organizations have been sent out by the BLM.
The San Rafael route plan is also posted on the internet at www.priceBLMtravelplan.com.
In addition, copies of the environmental assessment are available for review at BLM offices in Price, Moab, Salt Lake City and Grand Junction, Colo. Copies are also available at Carbon and Emery County Commission offices.
Public input in the matter will be accepted through March 22. Carbon County residents may submit written comments to the Bureau of Land Management, Attention: Route Designation Plan, 125 S. 600 West, Price, UT 84501.
Rasmussen described the timing of the route designation plan as ideal.
"A lot of people have done a lot of good things over the past couple of years to help manage access, reduce impacts from cross-country travel, as well as provide user information on how to enjoy and responsibly ride in the Swell," commented the acting field office manager.
Acknowledging that there is plenty more work yet to be done, Rasmussen pointed to recent collaborative partnership efforts as key to managing use.
"Joints efforts to increase patrol and signing, install information kiosks and rehabilitate areas impacted by route proliferation are beginning to turn things around and getting us all moving in the right direction. Designating routes is the next critical step forward," said Rasmussen.
A final decision regarding the matter is anticipated in the spring.