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Letter to the editor: Stick up for access on public lands

Dear Editor:
The future must change, but must liberty cease?
In the late 1980s while camping down by Cedar Mountain, my husband, Gary, and I were visited by some BLM (kids) folks. They were doing a “survey” on the use of the San Rafael Country. Today neither Gary or I remember the questions, but had we known what was coming, we surely would have paid more attention to the depth of what they were asking. It wasn’t much later that the battle began for use on the San Rafael.
Castle Country Off-Highway Vehicle Association was born in September of 1999. Just before that, the Southeastern Utah OHV Club came into existence. And before that, the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club was on board with public lands issues. Twenty+ years of RECREATION on motorized vehicles (not to mention the trucks, trailers, jeeps, and yes, I’ve even seen Cadillac’s pulling a trailer with a motorcycle or ATV on it, to get these machines to their desired staging areas).
There have been good men involved with “planning processes” over the years. Scott Wheeler, Wade Allinson, Clif Koontz, Paul Anderson, and Alan Peterson have always been on board, giving real information to our public land managers, and elected officials and even trying to educate the general public about what was at stake.
Along with other club members, they installed hundreds of signs and fences for the BLM, not to mention Scott Wheeler creating a user-friendly map that BLM and Emery County utilized.
Over the years, we’ve watched as WSAs became a symphony that we would learn was orchestrated against us. Gone was our freedom to roam. Every grain of dirt became precious, so precious that certain people were plotting to keep motorized users from enjoying the area the way we had for generations. We had to learn this new language being forced on us…ACEC’s, WSA’s, Wild and Scenic Rivers.
We always knew it was Wild and Scenic, but they redefined those words to exclude us. In addition to motorized users, cattlemen eventually became a target, and mining, gas, and oil were on their hit-list. Anything that you and I knew as “normal life” became a sin.
We would learn about the massive Red Rock Wilderness Act, which in turn prompted the Utah Public Lands Initiative throughout eastern counties. It was the local’s direction that was sent to Washington as a balance that would leave some room for traditional uses. Not good enough for the “environmental movement”. It was, and still is, all of what they want, nothing of what we want.
We’ve watched as millions of taxpayer dollars get spent on court costs because the likes of SUWA, Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club (which is what’s left of the Utah Wilderness Coalition) hauled our counties to court, all the while declaring that they (from all over the country, mind you) know what’s best for Utah. They claim over 3 million members, but how many of them know the issues (let alone the places) beyond what they’re spoon-fed? Here in Utah, there are over 200,000 registered OHV’s. Where are these people? And why are they not letting their voices be heard?
We have elected officials who should be directing the show, but many of them know little about land use, and wind up taking their direction from the environmental movement. Perhaps they just get weary from having to run this monster around and around. Twenty plus years, we’ve been trying to resolve this. Then along comes legislation that is superfluous in its assurances to access public lands.
Motorized users are largely left out, or at least, dodged by just changing a few words. Well, believe you me, there are people out there who really read these documents and notice when their recreational interests are being hung out to dry.
We’ve watched as the wilderness fanatics couldn’t get the Red Rock Wilderness Act through, then came other designations, like the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument, the Bears Ears National Monument, the Grand Staircase Eascalante National Monument, and of course (depending on which presidential administration needs to repay its wilderness donors) national monuments became a craze. Do not think for one minute that the San Rafael Swell will not become a national monument. The Utah Wilderness Coalition wants to control you and me, not merely to protect these areas. (See Mark Habbeshaw’s Wrongful Closure of Paria Canyon, or even our own debacle of closing five gates on the Tavaputs, which was done with extortion).
The bottom line is libery. Liberty is “The Right” and “The Right to enjoy the Right.” We grew up here. We know what is here. We need to stand up and be counted for our rights and not bow before the giant. Remember that David stood against Goliath and won. As President Cleveland once said, “A public office is a public trust. Public office is not to be sold to the highest bidder”. Sometimes Joan Powell suspects that is what’s going on.
Get involved and get vocal for the recreation you love. You know we motorized recreationalists torque millions of dollars each year into the economy. Surely you understand that every time you pay the registration on your machines, put fuel in your gas tanks, go to the grocery store for goodies, buy clothing and safety gear, you are pumping money into some tax base. Join your local clubs. participate so it’s not just the STP (Same Ten People). Donate when needed to send lobbyists to Washington DC representing YOU and motorized recreation.
The new Emery County Public Land Management Act is about to hit the floor in Washington, DC. Previous bills were full of hope and reasonable expectations, based on many years of thinking and planning put forth by local input. In contrast, the current bill sweeps motorized recreation under the carpet in hopes that, one day, somebody will have the magic tool (or words) to “clean it up.” Proposed amendments from CCOHVA, Sage Riders, and Ride with Respect have been carefully thought out by good men. This small set of amendments cleans it up right now, and is something we can all live with. You won’t know about the wording unless you read it at the CCOHVA or Sage Riders websites. Get involved, and write to Emery County officials, and your congressmen and senators about how displeased you are with the current bill that is headed to the floor.
If you don’t, plan on selling your machines and buying golf clubs.
Joan Powell

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