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I posted this in chit-chat also, cross post, I know, but every once in a while we need to spread the word as far as possible, and stuff like this gets buried there pretty quick anyway. My op-ed that is going up on ORC today. The Price BLM DRMP is on its last day of the comment period, this is my response. The Price RMP is huge, includes the San Rafael Swell, and can be a precedent setter for the rest of the west.

Definitely NO laughing matter
by Brad Ullrich, Land Use Editor

I just found out I'm not crazy, no early onset of Alzheimer's either. Brian Hawthorne of the Blue Ribbon Coalition just confirmed this for me; Brian I owe you, I was about to talk to my wife about committing me.

What the heck am I talking about? Something that is so serious and so screwed up that two guys that have been involved in land use issues for many years can sit and laugh like lunatics when talking about it. The Price, UT BLM Draft Resource Management Plan is what I am referring to.

Maybe I just better start from the beginning, it is apparent that this is making no sense, but when you are talking about something that makes no sense it is hard to make sense. Does that make sense? Anyway, there is a very large chunk of land in the middle of the state of Utah that is managed by the Price office of the Bureau of Land Management and they are in the process of updating their Resource Management Plan. A significant portion of this plan involves the designation of OHV routes or areas that are open to OHVs on 2.5 million acres that includes the popular and remote San Rafael Swell. As I have written previously, the "open" designation is rapidly disappearing on BLM and USFS land throughout the west, the Price area is no exception. So, what we are mostly left with to preserve our right to motorized recreation is a thorough designation of existing OHV routes.

And that is where the problem begins. Recently, in preparation for making comments on the DRMP I downloaded all 64 megabytes of the plan from the Price BLM website. A significant portion of those 64 megabytes consists of a variety of maps, some of which are maps of the OHV routes. MOST OF THOSE MAPS ARE INCOMPREHENSIBLE! There are three maps of OHV routes, Alternative A and B being on one map, Alternatives C and D having their own maps. What I want to know is how on earth am I supposed to comment on the DRMP after looking at those maps? They consist of some state and federal highways, and a muddied up bunch of squiggly green lines. What are the routes designated on these maps? There is no way to find out in the DRMP, and this quote from section 2.8.3 only serves to make one wonder just what does the BLM intend to do with the area managed by the Price Office:
"OHV use will be allowed on designated routes in limited areas. It will not be allowed in areas closed to OHV use."

Designated routes in limited areas! I would just start laughing at this if it wasn't so serious a situation. Looking at the maps and the alternatives, I have absolutely NO idea on how to make comments on this plan that make any sense. So, as previously mentioned, I picked up the phone and called Brian, but unfortunately I didn't call him until right before the Thanksgiving weekend. Brian was able to call me back this morning, the morning of the deadline for comments on this DRMP. I asked Brian if I was losing it, I've seen more than a couple of DRMPs, some that make more sense than others, but this one is making absolutely no sense to me at all. I heard laughter from the other end of the phone, but not derisive laughter, it was laughter from someone that has seen exactly what I have in this DRMP, and is just as baffled by what he has seen as I am. Brian is intimately familiar with the area in question, and if he can't make heads or tails of what he is looking at then how is someone that is only casually familiar with the area supposed to make comments?

The question then arises, is the BLM doing this on purpose? If so, why? And if not, how do they expect the public to participate in the planning process if they are given information that is beyond their comprehension? And is this something that the BLM has begin to initiate throughout the west? Is the virtual elimination of OHVs on BLM managed land where we are headed? We saw the tip of this iceberg with the Farmington, NM RMP and the almost total elimination of the "open" designation, and it has continued in the Farmington District with a muddled mess called the OHV route designation. Many months after the Farmington RMP was final, there is almost no progress on route designation. With a call to Rich Simmons, Wilderness and Recreation Manager for the Farmington office this morning I learned that the original route designation plan had been scrapped, and they decided to start with a completely different area than was originally planned. Rich did admit that it looks like they have been handed more than they can handle with the manpower they have, but is this any reason to possibly penalize OHVers by eliminating routes just because they can't map them? It appears that this is possibly what is going to happen in Farmington. And here's the real kicker in all this, I have absolutely NO idea if this is what is happening in Price because no documents seem to exist that I can make sense of.

We can laugh in frustration, confusion, desperation, or just because this all so crazy that it can't be happening. But, guess what folks, it is happening, and if the Farmington and now the Price RMPs are any indication it is the intent of the BLM to severely limit OHV use on lands that it manages. Why is this being done? Good question, in fact it is THE question that we all need to be asking. Are incomprehensible DRMPs intentional, or is the BLM so lacking in manpower and resources that they cannot put forth a product that the public can make sense of and use? And, especially in Utah, do the anti-OHV extreme environmental groups have so much influence that the BLM is willing to bow to their wishes? And if it's not direct influence, is it just fear of these groups?

I think my comments on the Price DRMP are very similar to what I said in response to the Farmington DRMP, Alternative A is the ONLY valid alternative because there is no way to comment on any of the other alternatives with the information provided. Alternative A is, of course, the no action alternative. In other words, they, that is the BLM, have no right to change or amend ANY Resource Management Plan if they cannot provide us with a plan and the accompanying documents that make any sense. And in the case of the Price DRMP, the lack of comprehensible alternatives is so obvious that there cannot be any change or update to their RMP until the public is provided with alternatives they can understand. Without understandable alternatives there are only two alternatives available, and those are absolutely no change, or what appears to be the intent of the BLM, near elimination of OHV use on public lands.

Brian and I can laugh about this because we have been involved in land management matters for so long. But, our laughter is out of frustration, in our frustration we are trying to find a little humor in this situation in order to avoid going crazy. It is imperative that the BLM and other federal land management agencies be required by the people they serve to be honest and provide them with plans and related documents that they can understand. If not, there is going to be a lot more hysterical laughter coming from the OHV community as they see their vehicles become useless items they can look at through the window of their padded rooms. Because a padded room is what dealing with the BLM and their craziness is what people like Brian and myself are being driven to.

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