The BLM’s resource management plan and maps of the region show that two-thirds of the land inside the 1.35-million acre monument is in some sort of protected status, withdrawn from mineral development.

posted by Marjorie Haun

Deseret News, Environment reporter, Amy Joi O’Donoghue, took a deep dive into the layers of federal ‘protections’ currently governing various areas and features within the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument, which was unilaterally created by President Obama last December. Environmentalist special interests seeking to close off as much land as possible to resource development, and giant outdoor recreation corporations, such as Patagonia and Keen, seeking the dollars that come with masses of tourists intent on a desert adventure of one sort or another, warned that Bears Ears could be protected only through a federal monument designation. Conversely, those who actually live, have jobs, and regularly recreate there have insisted that Bears Ears is already ‘protected’ by varying federal mandates to the point of being overly-restricted. In the following piece, O’Donoghue explores the jungle of federal protections, many redundant, some contradictory, and copious by any standard, which governed the area prior to Obama’s midnight monument designation of December 28, 2016.

Amy Joi O’Donoghue

Deseret News

Deciphering protections inside Bears Ears monument designation

SALT LAKE CITY — When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a preliminary recommendation that contemplates shrinking the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, one of the key points he emphasized is that some of the land is already subject to special management restrictions.

Zinke’s interim report released Monday notes there are 11 wilderness study areas inside the monument that comprise 381,000 acres and are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The lands have to be in the same or better condition than they were 41 years ago to ensure Congress has the ability to invoke permanent wilderness protection.

That year is significant, 1976, when Congress passed the Federal Lands Policy Management Act that set up the majority of Utah’s wilderness study areas — vast amounts of land that have remained in limbo since then.

There is also the Dark Canyon Wilderness of 46,353 acres on Forest Service land administered by that federal agency that has permanent wilderness status and is managed as such.

The BLM’s resource management plan and maps of the region show that two-thirds of the land inside the 1.35-million acre monument is in some sort of protected status, withdrawn from mineral development.

That includes special recreation management areas, wilderness study areas and 48,000 acres of lands managed for wilderness and identified for protections after an exhaustive 1999 inventory of lands with wilderness characteristics inside Utah.

Bureau of Land Management | Aaron Thorup, Bureau of Land Management

What can you do in a wilderness study area and what’s restricted?

In 2012, the BLM released a revised and more aggressive policy on management of the study areas, which allows nonmotorized, primitive recreational activities such as backpacking, horseback riding, rafting, fishing and hunting.

Zinke’s preliminary recommendation asks Congress to clarify management practices of study areas within a monument’s boundaries because he says the land uses under each designation may be at odds with each other.

Free Range Report

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