Then And Now: Change On The Range
Roadless/Wilderness Management 1997
On many drainages, only after several miles of tranquil hiking will you see the sign, "High Uintas Wilderness," the artificial boundary that separates protected Wilderness from unprotected wilderness. When Congress passed the Utah Wilderness Act in 1984, critical roadless lands were not designated. About 30,000 acres spreading across the North Slope from the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River to the Blacks Fork were not considered and are now threatened by oil and gas development (Amerac). The lower West Fork of Beaver Creek was ignored and now faces the Round Park debacle. Ashley Creek, the Whiterocks, Sheep Creek and Dry Fork represent the 100,000 acres of the 11,000 foot Bollies. No timber; no oil and gas; closed to motorized traffic the logic of its exclusion has escaped all observers.
West of Mirror Lake sits the vast, unprotected, western reaches of the Uintas, the upper drainages of the Provo and Weber Rivers. Here lies a subalpine, forested wonderland dotted with small meadows, deep canyons, lakes and ponds. These additions assure a large, wild and undeveloped landscape will be protected for its inherent natural biodiversity.
A Uintas vision is braced by Aldo Leopold's profound advice: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Imagine an integral High Uintas defined by wildness, not board feet, animal unit months or full creels. Imagine a mountain defined by the creation of life, not the production of resources.
Roadless/Wilderness Allocation 2004
In a mere seven years how things have changed! The Clinton administration and the Forest Service under the leadership of a dynamic and modern Forest Service Chief, Mike Dombeck, set in motion a process to protect roadless areas from road building and most other activities that would destroy roadlessness. The Bush Administration and an old traditional Forest Service Chief, Dale Bosworth, within days proposed to undo the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and did. This was a major shift in policy that had been forming for decades! (See, for example, HUPC LYNX 10/03 and 12/03.)
So what has happened on the Uintas?
The Wasatch-Cache National Forest revised forest plan, March 2003! (See, for example, HUPC LYNX, 12/01, 4/03 and 8/03.) Of the 103,000 acres of roadless lands on the North Slope of the Uintas, a paltry 20,000 acres received a wilderness recommendation and 33,000 (including the wilderness recommendation) was allocated to a roadless management prescription. Another 21,500 acres was allocated to management prescriptions that "mostly maintain" roadless area value, whatever mostly maintain means. In other words, the VAST majority (68%) of the wild landscape on the North Slope of the Uintas was allocated to some sort of management prescription authorizing road building. Over 70% of the roadless landscape is open to snowmobiles!
On the 122,000 acres Lakes Roadless area, a teeny wilderness recommendation of 38,000 acres was made all of it, with a Cheshire grin, left open to snowmobiles and a total of 65,000 (including the wilderness recommendation) received a
It is even worse when looking at the whole Wasatch-Cache National Forest where only 3 wilderness recommendations were made on over 30 roadless areas. Of the total 606,000 acres of roadless lands, just over 30% of the acreage received formal roadless area management prescriptions.
No forward movement here. No recognition of the undeniable values of roadless areas just old time management implementing an old time policy. Back to the deep past!
The Ashley National Forest has yet to complete its forest plan revision scheduled over the next 2-3 years. But the forest has produced a draft roadless inventory that includes well over 700,000 acres with some 200,000 acres of undisputable high quality roadless lands directly contiguous to the High Uintas Wilderness and already closed to road building by the Forest Service in the extant forest plan. This country combined with the nearly 100,000 acres of high quality North Slope wild lands on the Wasatch-Cache and the extant 460,000 acre wilderness make up the High Uintas Preservation Council's wilderness proposal for the Uintas.
We hope the Ashley will not back away from the already positive direction and, in fact, will add additional restrictions on other roadless lands and recommend a large, visionary, ecologically based wilderness recommendation in the upcoming forest plan. Wishful thinking?
Wilderness Management 2004
The High Uintas Wilderness Management plan was completed in 1996, a full 12 years after the High Uintas Wilderness was designated. (See HUPC LYNX 6/98.)
While the plan had some positive steps, it failed on most meaningful, long term, ecologically-based concerns such as non-native fish stocking, non-native wildlife transplants (more on both of these in later issues of the LYNX), firewood use, not to mention controlling use in highly impacted drainages. But the hoax of the plan was that it was dependent upon a formally prepared monitoring/implementation strategy. And still not yet prepared!
Along with some meaningful work by good and well intended Forest Service folks, we have prevented the loss of any roadless area acreage contiguous to the Uintas (minus snowmobiles, unfortunately.) But rather than leading these issues into the light, the Forest Service has fallen deeply back into an old and dark, musty past.