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Former BLM Head Urges Coloradans to Snoop on Utah

October 20, 2008

Denver, CO - Coloradans should be looking over their neighbor's fence to the west, according to former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) chief Jim Baca, who says to keep an eye on Utah. Baca directed the BLM during the first Clinton administration, and he says an "eleventh-hour" push by the current administration to open up parts of Utah's canyon country to possible energy development and to off-road vehicles (ORVs) could have serious consequences for public lands.

"From a land-management standpoint -- just from good, on-the-ground land management -- these things are really, really disastrous."

Baca says the Bush administration's new 20-year plans for more than 11 million acres in areas near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, as well as Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado border, would open 80 percent of public lands to drilling, and turn over more than 20,000 miles of trails to off-road vehicles.

The BLM says the plans simply allow a wider range of public uses, but Baca warns that some of those uses could cause permanent damage and would infringe on traditional uses of the lands. One of his main concerns is the widespread access for off-road vehicles the plans would allow.

"I think, overall, ORVs are probably making a bigger impact on public lands in the West than just about any other use, and it's to the detriment of everybody."

The ORV recreation industry has launched an education campaign to encourage off-roaders to stay on trails in sensitive areas. Off-road vehicle users say they deserve equal access to public lands.

Nada Culver, senior counsel with The Wilderness Society in Denver, says wildlife doesn't recognize state borders when it comes to public land habitat, and people don't normally pay attention to boundaries, either. But in this case, she says, the implications can't be ignored.

"If habitat is destroyed by off-road vehicles and oil and gas wells on one side of the border, it will certainly be affected on the other."

More information is at www.blm.gov/ut/st/en.html.

Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - CO