Recreational access groups hold rally in support of public lands access for all citizens
SAINT GEORGE, UT - June 28, 2006 - Two groups concerned about access to public lands will host a Pro-Access Rally in St. George this Thursday, June 29 on the steps of the Washington County Administration Building. The Rally will begin at 6:00 pm.
The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), a national recreational access group and the Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL), Utah's largest public lands access advocacy organization are hosting the Rally in order to encourage our political representatives to keep public lands open for recreation and to counter the proposals of radical environmental groups.
The groups are concerned that without public outcry, environmental groups may have undue influence on management plans proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service. These new plans may close roads and trails, limit the ability to connect trails to create recreational loops and not allow elderly and disabled citizens to view and enjoy public lands in Southern Utah.
Brian Hawthorne, BRC's Public Lands Director said; "Recreation on public lands is important to Southern Utah's people and its economy. The general public needs to understand they can't take it for granted that their favorite trail or campsite will remain open."
Hawthorne pointed to the proposal to close hundreds of miles of roads and trails recently made by the BLM on the Arizona Strip. The groups are worried similar closure proposals will be made by the Dixie National Forest, which is also updating management plans.
Mike Swenson, USA-ALL's Executive Director is concerned that the decision making process is too long and complicated. Swenson said; "The general public does not understand how these decisions are made and feel their concerns will not be taken seriously by federal land managers. That's why we decided to have a Rally. We wanted a fun way for folks to participate and have a voice in these decisions. The Rally is a way to say; our roads are our treasures. Let's keep the existing roads and trails open."
The Rally will begin at 6:00 p.m. and include talks by Utah State Senate Representative Tom Hatch, Utah State House Representative Mike Noel and Utah State House Representative Brad Last. Noel said he was looking forward to speaking to his constituents in Washington County. "I worked for the BLM for years," he said. "I know how hard it is for local citizens to make their voice heard in the planning process. This kind of Rally can send a powerful message to land managers." Noel added.
The groups pointed out that BLM and the Forest Service have already set aside millions of acres exclusively for hiking and horseback riding. Much of Southern Utah is already off limits to motorized vehicles and even to mountain bikes. Hawthorne expressed concern that the media did not report that environmental groups recently expanded their massive state-wide Wilderness legislation. "The environmental groups added a huge chunk of Wilderness in Washington County to their bill, and we didn't hear a peep about it in the press," he said.
Local Off-Highway Vehicle groups welcome the Rally. Dale Grange, a member of the Washington County based Tri-State Off-Highway Vehicle Club said; "We want our political representatives to understand how important it is to protect the existing roads and trails. Each year more and more roads and trails are proposed for closure. People are asking; 'when will it stop'."
Grange added this; "Southern Utah is home to world-class opportunities for all forms of outdoor recreation. Regardless of if you hike, mountain bike, snowmobile or ride ATV's, this region has much to offer. We want to make sure Utah's political representatives know how important it is to protect access to our public lands."
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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742.