October 31, 2008

1.1 million Utah acres of public land closed to off-highway vehicles

Daily Sentinel

The Bureau of Land Management on Friday approved five new Resource Management Plans for field offices in Utah that will close almost 1.1 million acres, or 13 percent, of public lands to off-highway vehicle travel in these areas, according to a news release.

Off-highway vehicle travel on designated roads is still allowed on 7.6 million acres, or 88 percent of public lands in the five field office areas of Moab, Kanab, Price, Richfield and Vernal.

The new plans replace 25-year-old plans and better address “the need for improved recreation opportunities, better management of cross-country travel to protect natural resources, the use of best management practices to mitigate the impacts of energy development activities and additional safeguards for the protection of environmentally sensitive areas,” the BLM’s release said.

The BLM is managing 361,000 acres of the 2.2 million acres of land officials considered to be eligible for wilderness characteristics in the five plans.

According to the new plans, 53 percent of the acreage open to oil and gas leasing will be subject to stricter environmental controls, and 18 percent of the lands within the planning areas are unavailable for any energy leasing.

“BLM has committed in each of the plans to find innovative ways to minimize the footprint on public lands. This is done through best management practices, including directional drilling, well placement and sound muffling,” the release said.

Many of the plans were started in 2001 and were approved after protests were reviewed by its director and the state of Utah.