I am a long-time advocate for multiple-use management of public lands, I am a rock-art enthusiast and a local history buff, I am an active member of many user groups who enjoy public lands and I am involved in the NEPA process when it comes to developing management plans for our public lands. Recently, I’ve become skeptical of the motives behind the individuals and groups pushing to have the Nine Mile Canyon Road included in the National Registry of Historic Places. Recent articles printed in the Sun Advocate (and elsewhere) on this subject have mentioned that proponents claim that such a designation will have “no effect” on current uses and private property rights.
I have found, though, that if the area is formally registered, it becomes part of the BLM’s “National Landscape Conservation System. NLCS inclusion gives the BLM very broad discretion and authority regarding BLM management and maintenance for NLCS parcels. For example, both the Grand Escalante Monument and Canyon of the Ancients are part of the NLCS. The NLCS also includes wild and scenic rivers, landmarks, wilderness and areas with wilderness characteristics. So to me, the NLCS designation seems to virtually assure heavy restrictions.
So why is it needed? There is already an existing Special Recreation and Cultural Management Plan, with implementation a joint effort of the BLM, Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, and local and county governments. Secondly, there is an Area of Critical Environmental Concern currently contemplated in the BLM’s pending Resource Management Plan, meaning the National Historic District Designation would be yet a third management/restriction mechanism applied to the area. So again- why is it needed?
I think I know why. NLCS websites run by the environmental groups shows there to be a push to further strengthen and expand the NLCS (see The Wilderness Society website discussing the NLCS). This includes increased funding and oversight at the national level for conservation efforts, as well as requiring additional planning and restrictions in such areas. The goal of these organizations appears to be creating a system modeled after the National Parks and Wildlife Refuges (see The Conservation System Alliance website discussing “The Campaign”).
I can only conclude that a designation in the National Register would leave Nine Mile Canyon under further regulations and restrictions which would hamper development in the area. I firmly believe that we can protect the past, while at the same time maintaining our quality of life, and plan for the future. Nine Mile Canyon has an intriguing history of human development, including mineral extraction for which I am very grateful. I applaud the Carbon County Board of Commissioners for opposing the designation.