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Utah Travel Headlines

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interior Secretary Recommends More Wilderness In Utah

The battle rages over where federally-protected wilderness should be designated in Utah's backcountry.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has issued a recommendation to Congress calling for the establishment of 18 new wilderness areas. Three are in Utah and are listed below:

- Desolation Canyon (Castle Country area)
- Westwater Canyon (Moab area)
- Mill Creek Canyon (Moab area)

Salazar noted that the Grand County Council favors the wilderness designation. However, other Utah governmental officials are not happy with the move. KSL has this report about the recommendations. Below is an excerpt.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, quickly denounced the report.

"I am deeply disappointed that Interior Secretary Salazar continues to be tone deaf about public lands issues in Utah," Matheson said. "As our success in Washington County shows, wilderness proposals must be the result of a grassroots, stakeholder-driven process, rather than a top-down decree. This is not the way to make progress on public lands decisions and it only ensures that we won’t see a successful outcome on the ground here."

On another front, the state of Utah and several counties are battling for control of many backcountry roads out of fear that the federal government will close them to vehicle travel. The disputed roads are on federal land and some are in remote areas.

The Deseret News has this article about the debate over roads. Below is an excerpt.

The fight over who has ultimate control over the destiny of these roads has expanded to include Carbon County, which filed a lawsuit Monday. Gov. Gary Herbert's office and the Utah Attorney General's Office announced this week that lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Garfield County, which is seeking title to 94 disputed road segments within its boundaries and Kane County, which filed Nov. 10 over 710 disputed road segments.

Access — through such action like granting title — has turned into a politically polarizing fight because some of the roads in Kane County traverse wilderness areas or are within the geographical boundaries of the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument or Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Critics of the counties' claims to roads say getting access is just an excuse to open up more lands to natural resource development.

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