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Environmental Group Challenges BLM Decision Plan to Develop Vehicle Trail in Environmentally Sensitive Area

July 14, 2003
WildEarth Guardians
In This Release
Public Lands  
Santa Fe, NM – WildEarth Guardians filed a Notice of Appeal today challenging a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposal to develop a new Off Highway Vehicle trail in an area the BLM has designated for environmental protection. The BLM decision to allow Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) within the Warner Ridge/Fort Pearce Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and designate an OHV trail through the entire ACEC, adjacent to a fragile stream, would fail to protect the values for which the ACEC was designated.

A 1998 study by the BLM called on the agency to close the entire ACEC to motorized recreation. More recently, a BLM survey in 2000 concluded that the Fort Pearce Wash was in poor ecological health, due to motorized OHV use, overgrazing by livestock, recreational use, and natural flooding events. The report noted that motorized vehicles in and adjacent to the Wash uproot vegetation, undermine streambanks, compacts soils along frequently used routes, and could accelerate soil erosion on steep slopes.

“The Warner Ridge/Fort Pearce ACEC was designated to offset the damage from OHV use in the area. Establishing a more permanent trail through the ACEC, will only encourage more vehicular traffic in the ACEC,” said WildEarth Guardians desert ecologist Jim Matison. ” This BLM decision plan ignores the root problem, which is too many motorized vehicles in an ecologically sensitive area.” said Matison.

In 1998, the BLM recommended closure of the Ft. Pearce Wash to all motorized OHV uses to lessen the impacts on riparian vegetation, soils, and wildlife habitat. However, the BLM’s decision to allow a 4-mile long trail to link with other OHV routes in the Arizona Strip threatens even more damage to this ecologically sensitive area. WildEarth Guardians claims the BLM should close the area and direct traffic to the hundreds of thousands of acres that are open to OHV use.

The Warner Ridge/Fort Pearce ACEC encompasses 4,281 acres and was established to protect the Fort Pearce riparian area and to protect the federally threatened Siler pincushion cactus and the endangered Dwarf bear-claw poppy. More than 50% of all wildlife species in Southern Utah use the Ft. Pearce Wash riparian area for food, water, and cover.

“It makes no sense that the BLM allow more intensive motorized recreation on lands that while relatively small in size, nonetheless are critical to the overall health to the environment” said Jim Matison of WildEarth Guardians.

The Bureau of Land management has nearly 23 million acres of land in State of Utah and ACECs represent about 1.2 million acres or about 5 percent of the total land managed by the BLM. WildEarth Guardians currently has a campaign to ensure protection of ecologically critical deserts and grasslands, one component of which includes ensuring the protection of BLM ACECs.