GOVERNOR’S ROADLESS PETITION
“Editor’s Note: as of November 20, the Governor had not submitted a roadless petition.”
Governor Huntsman has made it abundantly clear that protection of Forest Service roadless areas is of no importance to the State of Utah. Posted on his Office of Public Lands Policy Coordination (PLPC) website (http://www. governor.utah.gov/publiclands/publicinformation.htm) early in October was his administration’s Synopsis Draft Petition of the State of Utah to the Department of Agriculture Concerning Areas Identified as Roadless or Unroaded. PLPC allowed only a couple of weeks for public comment without any general notification. Until this was revealed by HUPC to the news media, it was quite likely few people would even know such a petition existed—probably the intent.
In January 2006 (see HUPC LYNX 2/06) we raised deep concerns about any such petition process to the Governor. His response from the PLPC was a letter followed many months later by email exchanges suggesting that no decision had been made about a petition only to be followed by posting of this petition synopsis. So much for public involvement and openness.
This roadless petition process now engaged by the State of Utah is fraught with conflict and confusion. It enhances discord and bewilderment and erases the beauty of this nation’s public lands system by plainly suggesting Utah has the priority role in setting Forest Service policy.
This petition process rehashes an old context—a sort-of-Sagebrush Rebellion—where the federal government owns and administers the land base, but the state directs and dictates the management. This is but a cynical and derisive effort to resolve the problem of a literal Sagebrush Rebellion where the state of Utah simply would own millions and million of acres of land which have historically never been administered or managed by Utah state agencies, would beg for management and simply overwhelm the infrastructure of the state natural resource management agencies.
This roadless petition calls for overturning past roadless reviews, suggesting the 1984 Utah Wilderness Act represented the onlyroadless review, calling for the state to conclude management on Forest Service lands through a singular advisory committee composed only of local and state officials, and implying roadless areas, if they were to be recognized, would be open to any and all management activities inconsistent with maintaining roadlessness. It is not a roadless area petition in any sense. It is not intended to make better resource policy decisions about roadless areas, enhance state and federal partnerships, or make for better government. That is always done through more extensive public participation, not less, and this process allows minimum public participation—only a few weeks, at best, to comment on a synopsis, not even the actual peti-tion—no publicity, no announcements and just an obscure website. It wasn't intended to prepare better information on roadless landscapes. For decades the Forest Service has slowly moved in that direction with the RACR data base, hitting its proverbial peak with crystal clear data exposed to extensive public discussion.
But it is intended to cloud and confuse the issue, fragment decision making, and dismiss, at an ideological level, roadless area protection. It is inconceivable and beguiling that Governor Huntsman, in this day and age, would pursue such a process and policy to devalue roadless areas so important to Utah residents.
The issues, the people who passionately care about roadless area preservation, and the ecology and science surrounding these issues deserve more.
We should not have to remind the Governor that when one drives north to Logan, much of the Wasatch Front to the east and the Bear River Mountains in Cache Valley represent roadless landscapes.
When one drives south, the southern Wasatch, the Canyon Mountains, the Pavants, Beehive Peak, the Tushars, much of the central Plateau country such as Fish Creek, upper Muddy Creek, Fish Lake Hightop, Mt. Marvine, Terrill, Hilgard and Thousand Lake Mt. are all roadless. Monroe Mt. and Signal Peak on the Sevier Plateau, Mt. Dutton and Casto Bluff on the Paunsaugunt Plateau, the Boulder Mt. Plateau, the LaSals, and the Abajos all represent roadless landscapes.
Just consider a drive up the Mirror Lake Highway, where roadlessness dominates the landscape!
A remarkable opportunity and obligation exists to preserve this place— all of these places—and to allow its wildness to connect and hold this great power and to refresh our story and hold ourselves together as part and parcel of this wild landscape. It is here we can awaken the ghost of wolf, wolverine and grizz and share the life of great gray owl, cougar and black bear.