The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is the voice of one of America's most threatened landscapes -- the wild and unspoiled Colorado Plateau. Eighteen thousand concerned citizens from across the nation have joined SUWA's hard-hitting, grassroots commitment to save the magnificent canyon country of Southern Utah. 

The public land surrounding Utah's prized national parks is characterized by intricate canyons, arches, buttes, vast expanses of slickrock, red and salmon colored pinnacles, a variety of form and color unparalleled anywhere else on the planet ... and immense solitude and silence. Southern Utah harbors nothing less than a landscape of magic -- a landscape that belongs to you and to all Americans. 

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument:

Conservation and Controversy

Petrified Woody's Info on the Grand Staircase Monument and Southern Utah.
What you won't find on the BLM Page.

Some thoughts and links about the land in Utah and Arizona. 
The Controversy Surrounding the Conservation of Public Lands

Multiple use under attack by SUWA 

It may be too late to be involved in planning the future of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, but it is not too late to prevent similar occurrences on other public lands.
The "San Rafael Swell Bill" (HR 3605) is being opposed by SUWA. They want a totally roadless area, similar to what they accomplished in the Grand Staircase.
Currently H.R. 3605 is bouncing around in Washington. This is an important bill in that it offers protection to Utah's San Rafael Swell, while allowing for areas of multiple use. It is also important as a precedent in future land use decision making throughout the West. If you support multiple use, please call and write your elected officials to help this bill become law. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative's office. Write a follow-up after your call. Make it clear to those in washington that we do not want further access restrictions on land that has existing roads. 

Southern Utah...

Photographs of Southern Utah

A stunningly beautiful area with many outdoor recreation opportunities.
There are lots of rocks and fossils to be found, wide open spaces to explore, and some beautiful trout streams to fish.
There are also controversial decisions being made on the use of our public lands. If you use public lands for any recreational pursuit, there is information on this page you should be aware of. 

An Issue of Monumental Proportions

Southern Utah is the unwilling home of Slick Willy's Grand Reelection National Monument. A byproduct of election-year posturing: 
"The fact that the president was speaking so glowingly of a place in southern Utah from one in northern Arizona was hardly lost on so knowing a crowd... The president's decision was immediately denounced as election-year pandering to the environmental vote..."

(excerpt from Outside Magazine).

More properly and commonly known as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, this million-plus acre area needs protection from uncontrolled development, but at what cost? The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), and the Sierra Club think they have the answer to that question. 

The Economics of Wilderness Creation

Can anybody tell me how much money Robert Redford (a SUWA supporter) has made from his developments bordering Wilderness areas? 
Can anybody tell me if other supporters, or staff of SUWA have profited from developments adjacent to wilderness areas? 
Does anybody but me believe that some of the "environmentalists" championing new wilderness areas may have ulterior motives? 
By closing roads, declaring a wilderness area, selling land and building houses adjacent to the "wilderness", and in some cases closing off access to the general public, does the world become a better place? 

SUWA has a web site with information concerning the future of Southern Utah's open spaces. They seem to be in favor of closing roads all over the state of Utah -- The San Rafael Swell is the next target. While I don't agree with all they are trying to accomplish, I am glad someone is doing more than thinking about preserving the landscape. Cynical I am - stoopid I ain't. Just wish they weren't so anti-road. 

Road Closures and "Study Areas"

Several of the road closures in the Monument area are labeled as "wilderness study areas". I have a favorite spot near Boulder. I'll tell you how to find it, but I urge you to go out and find your own favorite spot. 
The one I am most interested in is not so recent a closure, and goes a mile or so into the Catch-all. It is a two-track trail that heads south from the Burr Trail about 5 miles outside of Boulder. To find it head South from Boulder on Burr Trail. Look for a gravel pit by a large pine tree -- if you reach Deer Creek, you've gone too far. Behind the pit, there is a road that crosses a sandy flat, and ends near where Deer Creek runs along the Durfey Mesa. 
To my recollection, it was closed about the same time there was grumbling from the Boulder Outdoor "Survival" School about their "wilderness" excursions being spoiled by vehicular traffic in that area known as the Catch-all. Could be coincidence, but I think not. This expensive "school" takes people out, for big bucks, and pretends they are in a "wilderness" setting, in order to teach "survival" skills. How is it that their business takes precedence over public access rights? 
Since it is a study area, there should be some data available....right? Well, where is it? 
Sure wish I knew the whole story...doubt I'd be any less pissed-off, but at least I wouldn't be so mystified. 
By the way, when you go, write and tell me how you enjoyed the drive.
There is some decent fishing at the end of this road, so take your pole! 

Historical (or is that hysterical?) Events:

For a glimpse at some of the disputes that have been brewing over the status of the monument, read an editorial/ article at the Sierra Club site. You can also read a good article on the monument, and the people who inhabit the area, from the Salt Lake Tribune. It seems as if the disagreements have toned down a bit lately, but opposing views still keep people from getting along. 

Several years back -- during the "Cattle Free by '93" days -- ranchers found livestock dead from gunshot wounds. During the paving of the road from Boulder to the Burr trail, equipment and machinery were sabotaged - sugar in fuel tanks, flattened tires, etc. 
I'm a fan of the second amendment,and of Ed Abbey, but Monkey Wrenching or terrorism of any sort is a bit Philistine for my tastes. Whoever you are, (some folks have a good idea) you didn't accomplish much, did ya? Seems to me that kind of activism will only get you another hole in your head. 
All of that is history now, and I wish I knew more. If anyone reading this can shed some more light on those earlier events, drop me a line. 

More recent Events:
Overzealous, a lack of brain function, or grandiose illusion?
(Who is that masked sign poster?) 

Some of the folks in Escalante and Boulder reported that around Spencer Flat, and other parts of the monument, roads were being closed by a BLM employee. Reportedly acting on his own, he was hammering closure signs into roadways (making it appear that they were legally closed). These closures were not sanctioned (officially) by the BLM, but were happening anyway. Too bad it is so difficult to fire a federal employee once they are hired. I don't think I want any of my tax dollars going to pay this guy's salary. I don't even want him volunteering.... unless perhaps he wants to head out to Antarctica, Siberia, or some other far-away place. Oughta be plenty enough roadless areas there.... 
Local reports stated that Craig Sorenson was the one seen closing roads on his own volition. If you'd like to ask him about his extracurricular activities, you can reach him at Perhaps we can all give him an email and tell him where those signs really belong? I don't think I can do that politely, so please give me a hand. Sorenson has been in the know for some time (see "The Planning Process" farther down the page). I find it enlightening that the same places he was putting his damn signs are the same places that are under consideration as future "wilderness study areas".
Hey, if you like to get out in the back country you'd better hurry, because the SUWA-types apparently want all the back roads closed so they can have their own roadless playground. 

At Odds

The environmental sector wants "wilderness". The locals, (excluding a few select newbies) descendants of the Pioneers who settled the area, want multiple-use to continue. BLM envisions (spelled: "it's gonna happen") an "outdoor museum", but is not clear on who gets to see it. Personally, I am a big fan of multiple-use, and allowing the roads to remain open. There are currently hundreds of miles of pack trails in the area if you want to really get away. There are also some folks who live in the area who can't enjoy those trails anymore. Years of ranching, farming, bronc-busting, (and the occasional exposure to Agent Orange during the 'Nam era) have left these area residents unable to get about as they once did. Who are the Sierra Club and SUWA to tell them that they can't use the old roads to get out and see the country that their forefathers settled? 

Thorny Issues

By the way SUWA/ Sierra Clubbers, when some day you are no longer physically able to pack in to the wilderness, will you still believe in protecting the land by keeping people off of it? Will you still lobby for more road closures? Will you be content to view your wilderness from the trail head? 
Any former backpackers, mountain bikers , or hikers out there now confined to a wheelchair, or otherwise unable to get out, willing to speak out in opposition to further road closures and access restrictions? Any who support the closures? 
Any altruistic lawyers out there who want to challenge some of this "wilderness" creation and road closure nonsense based on the Americans with Disabilities Act? I sure hope so. Would love to hear from you. 

Because I'm in favor of the old roads remaining open, and a sensible mutiple-use plan, does not mean I'm in favor of destroying the area. I'm also opposed to developers-in-environmentalist-clothing, and holier-than-thou "environmentalists" without a clue. There are currently coal mines, natural gas wells, sand and gravel operations, and other established industries in this so-called "wilderness" area. Those areas that are already developed needed to be excluded from the monument. Other locales within the monument are not "wilderness" for other reasons. The final plan did not account for the pre-existing conditions that should exclude developed areas from the wilderness plan. Many of the old roads are not even on the new maps (this is a widespread occurrence, and all you need to do is compare some USGS maps to verify the fact). 

If you were a cattle rancher, farmer, or other person working on this land to make a living, how would you feel if your government told you you had to find a new occupation because your historic range was now "wilderness"? Is this progress, or government BS? What would you do, if after a land "trade" with BLM, you discovered that the water they guaranteed you did not exist? So, your former range that had creek access is now "wilderness", and you can't run cattle unless you truck the water in! 
Many of these folks have been driven out -- or sold out to developer-types. So far, the people who have benefitted from all this crap, are those who are making bucks from selling and developing land. The ranchers who stay are being squeezed by BLM, and not in an honest way either. 
For more information on private and public land use issues visit the land rights web site. 

I believed that a sensible compromise was possible. How naive! All the publicity has irrevocably changed the area, inflated land prices will continue to rise, and creation of the monument will end up causing more commercial development than it prevents. The big question facing all sides of this dispute is not if, but where, the development will happen. If any of you are familiar with the Sedona, Arizona, or Durango, Colorado areas of today, and can also remember what they were like twenty years ago (or even ten!), you will understand part of what is transpiring in southern Utah. 
Does anyone find a bit of hypocrisy here? Some of those lobbying for the creation of wilderness are the same people making bucks from selling land and developing the area. 

The Planning Process
Whose land is it anyway?

I was told by some of the folks that participated in the BLM Planning Process:
"My hell! When that proposal came back from Washington, there wasn't any resemblance to the proposal we developed."
Is this an example of typical government "efficiency"? No. The planning process was a sham, and BLM did what it pleased with the area regardless of the input provided. As a taxpayer, voter, frequent visitor to the area, and a person who made my views known during the "planning", I'm more-than-a-little ticked off!
Apparently, there has been a plan in the making for quite some time, and the public forums were just a sham to pacify the locals, and other proponents of multiple-use. All of the input was supposed to be considered, but a review of the alternatives presented by the U.S. Government, reveals that they are ALL geared for road closures and access restrictions! Some of the people who worked for the Forest Service back in the 60s and 70s talked about a master plan for the area that they had heard about. Does anybody have any ideas as to where this plan originated? 

The road closures and travel restrictions within the Monument may be a done deal, and maybe not, as rumours of suits by effected County and other Utah governmental agencies are circulating. We can still stop the Forest Service and BLM from continuing their agenda of closing roads around the monument, and in our own back yards. Anyone with an interest in the area needs to pay attention. There are more shenanigans on the way, endorsed by Sierra Club, SUWA, and other extremist environmental groups. Don't allow further closures! 

Excerpt from ALRA page: 

"What hurt the people of Utah on the Grand Staircase Monument was that their elected officials did not take aggressive action soon enough. They believed the White House."
Do You?

Call your Congressman at (202) 225-3121 to voice your displeasure over these land-grabs, road closures, and other travel and access restrictions. Remind them that these are our lands, and we have a right to visit, and drive through, them. Ask that a letter be written to the White House opposing these actions now and that a copy of the letter go to you. Call both your Senators at (202) 224-3121 to urge them to do the same thing. Writing is known to create more impact than telephoning. After you call, please write with the same kind of request.
Please write and call your elected officials today!

The American Land Rights Association has a web page with information on more road closures coming your way (it could be your back yard next!). To learn more, call the American Land Rights Association at (360)687-3087, and visit their alert page. 

To see the Grand Staircase Approved Management Record of Decision go to the BLM's Grand Staircase page. 

If you are content with road closures, excessive regulation, bogus study areas, and staying away from "sensitive" areas on your visits to the Grand Staircase, or any public lands, you don't need to contact BLM, your senator, or your congressman. For that matter, you may not be able to get out at all unless you plan on packing in, flying over, or just spending time by the pool at the local Holiday Inn. Might just as well stay home and watch it on the Discovery channel. 

Northern Arizona has had another of these Land Grabs, but land usage decisions have yet to be made. If you value being able to travel the back roads, getting away from the crowds, and being able to see your land, you want to become involved. 
Stay tuned for information.

For photographs of The Grand Staircase area:

go to Woody's Photo Pages.

This diatribe is occasionally maintained by Woody

Send your comments! 
Thus far, mail from multiple use proponents outnumbers the flames from enviros by about 2 to 1, and flames from enviros outnumber the polite comments by about 3 to 1!

created 04/11/1999 
last modified 04/14/2000 

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