Help Save Trails in the San Rafael Swell

BRC is asking for your help to STOP THIS BILL. Clif Koontz, Executive Director of Ride with Respect (RwR) needs our help to stop this the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 from passing. Clif has spelled out the situation in a rather lengthy alert which came in this morning. (Clif apologizes for the length). THIS IS EXTREMELY URGENT AND EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, if you are an OHVer in Utah or you recreate in Utah, you need to read his alert and then you need to TAKE ACTION!

We’ve pasted Clif’s Alert below. Please take the time to read it, take action and then pass this along to friends, family and riding buddies and tell them to do the same.

Thanks in advance and, as always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact BRC.

Ric Foster
Policy Director
Sharetrails.org/BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext. 2

Motorized recreation is being sold out in the Emery County bill… just like they planned it?

As the Emery County Public Land Management Act is finalized this month, we’ll need all off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders to contact key elected officials (and send a copy to us), since trails in the San Rafael Swell are at stake. The bill is very careful not to close routes automatically, but it would prohibit BLM from constructing any motorized route for any reason (even safety or conservation) while giving us zero leverage to defend access along the existing routes, thereby making a net loss inevitable. Ride with Respect (RwR) supports county governments regaining meaningful influence on federal lands, but it requires them to be totally engaged in legislation. Thus far the Emery County Commission hasn’t taken a serious look while its staff and consultants allow Washington, D.C. to turn the county’s bill into a Trojan horse.

At an October 2nd meeting, Commissioner Kent Wilson did begin to question their public-lands consultant about OHV riders who “are feeling like we sold them down the river.” With a serious expression, the consultant replied “That was our plan.” With an alarmed expression, the Commissioner Wilson responded “Ha, ha, ha. Do not print that.” Then the consultant said “Joking. Joking.” Even if it was merely a callous joke, it was also the consultant’s most accurate answer to the whole line of questioning, which you can hear from Minute 24:49 to 31:18: https://www.utah.gov/pmn/files/432583.MP3

Since the brand-new bill was introduced this past May, the consultant has declined requests to meet with OHV advocates. Commissioner Wilson deserves credit for accepting to meet with RwR for an hour yesterday, and he pledged to investigate matters, but at this point the bill is half-baked. Staff of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Curtis and Sen. Hatch, have consistently either dismissed OHV concerns or assured us that they would be addressed at the next step in the legislative process. Finally at the House committee’s markup, Rep. Bishop courageously proposed an amendment to specify that the purpose of a San Rafael Swell recreation area would include “non-motorized and motorized” recreation…
…which passed unanimously. Less than a week later, this meager amendment was removed in the Senate committee’s markup of the bill by “voice vote,” which gave committee members like Sen. Lee no chance of even discussing the issue. So the bill currently stands without amendment as the following text and map:

While the bill has gotten worse, Rep. Curtis and Sen. Hatch continue to imply that OHV groups participated in developing the bill and support the outcome. In fact, no such groups participated in the 2018 bill, and a dozen national OHV groups oppose it along with OHV clubs across Utah. Why the unanimous opposition? In May the bill had over a dozen problems, which we narrowed down to ten requests in June, and further narrowed down to FOUR REQUESTS in August: http://www.sageridersmc.com/land-use-issues.html

The bill’s sponsor actually responded to the FOURTH REQUEST (letting the Resource Advisory Council exist for as long as the Swell recreation area is in place), but they simultaneously changed the RAC’s composition to give preservation-oriented members a majority. The THIRD REQUEST (specifying that the recreation area’s purpose includes motorized recreation) was adopted by Rep. Bishop only to be removed in the Senate version, suggesting that Sen. Hatch favors interests that deny OHV riding as a legitimate form of recreation in the Swell. The SECOND REQUEST (to remove the bill’s blanket ban on motorized route construction so that BLM can consider rerouting trails or adding links to provide quality opportunities and minimize any negative impacts) remains a poison pill in the bill, as explained in this letter to the editor:

The FIRST REQUEST (establishing a policy of “no net loss” of OHV access within the Swell recreation area in perpetuity) is our attempted consolation prize for not getting a guarantee of access to any particular route or destination. In 2012, Emery County had developed a bill based on actual collaboration that offered “certainty” to stakeholders including OHV riders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi1O-qZYvBU

In contrast, the only certainty that the 2018 bill offers us would be this unprecedented and preemptive ban on constructing motorized routes, which is a rather perverse way of keeping their promise. Meanwhile preservationists would have the certainty of over a half-million acres of Wilderness designation (going way beyond the existing WSA’s) plus the chance of managing additional acreage as Wilderness de facto, since the bill would do nothing to prevent it.

Incidentally, the second half of the video linked above touts the economic benefit of consolidating the checkerboard of state school-trust lands, which is also found in the 2018 bill. The difference is that the 2018 bill essentially buys land consolidation by selling long-term access interests as if preservationists wouldn’t equally benefit from moving school-trust acreage out of the Swell. The fact is that land consolidation is a bipartisan goal that can be accomplished in more ways than one, even through the presidential proclamation of a national monument.

In summary, the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 is advertised as an alternative to national-monument proclamation, but overall this legislative alternative might be worse. Despite the flawed process and outcome, OHV groups have worked in good faith to repair the bill rather than blocking it. We agree with Emery County’s initiative to develop a comprehensive land use bill, plus the collaboration and conservation that they espouse, but they’ll give a bad name to all three if Congress fails to restore balance to this bill.

ACTION:  Before the end of this month, it’s critical to oppose the Emery County Public Land Management Act as currently written. Whether you live in Utah, visit here and bring your tourist dollar, or simply have the Swell on your bucket list, please take the following steps (listed in order of importance):

1.  Write and/or call Rep. Bishop and Sen. Lee, as they have the clout and guts to stand up against the current bill. Tell them that you oppose H.R. 5727 / S. 2809, and that the bill should be amended in the four ways requested by local OHV clubs (Castle Country OHV Association, Sage Riders Motorcycle Club, and Ride with Respect), otherwise it should be pulled from this session of Congress.

Representative Rob Bishop (House natural-resources committee member)

Senator Mike Lee (Senate natural-resources committee member)

* Remember to copy one of your messages and paste it in an email to… brric@sharetrails.org …so that we can document the extent of OHV rider response. This is particularly important for people who don’t reside in Utah, as your message may be blocked, so we’ll ensure that it reaches the decision makers.

2.  Write and/or call the Emery County Commission since, although they don’t have the power to make a bill pass in Congress, they have been given veto power over this bill. Reiterate the points in Step 1 since, whether you reside in Emery County or just visit there, the current bill is bad for motorized recreation.

Emery County Commission

3.  Write and/or call the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Curtis and Sen. Hatch, and reiterate the points in Step 1. Despite having been unresponsive, they must know that we’re a major stakeholder, and that there’s still time to do the right thing.

Representative John Curtis (House sponsor of Emery County bill)

Senator Orrin Hatch (Senate sponsor of Emery County bill)

4.  For extra credit, write and/or call the other two Congress people from Utah. Even though they are not sponsors of the bill nor members of the natural-resource committees, they are in a position to help.

Representative Chris Stewart

Representative Mia Love

Right now the Emery County bill is like a slick loan with zero-down and interest-only, which needs to be fixed or sent back to the drawing board. The Sage Riders and Castle Country clubs have volunteered thousands of hours on trails and surroundings in the Swell. Each year tens of thousands of OHV riders enjoy the trail system responsibly. We deserve to maintain a decent outlook in the Swell and beyond.  Thanks -Clif Koontz

Executive Director
Ride with Respect
435-259-8334 land
201-741-0361 cell

photo by Castle Country OHV Association (CCOHVA)