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By: Robert Janis

Utah Shared Access Alliance

Securing Access Is Sole Purpose of Utah Shared Access Alliance

Continued from page 2...

USA-ALL also does extensive work with the Utah Legislature. According to Swenson, the Utah Legislature meets for 45 days starting on January 26, and then they have interim meetings for one or two days a month throughout the year. USA-ALL’s involvement with the legislature includes testifying before committees, participating in caucus meetings, doing special presentations and briefings for caucuses and legislators. The group also meets with the governor and his administration as well as the governor’s public lands coordinating council.

However, major work is done with the counties. There are 29 counties in the state of Utah and the counties have a special status in the planning process of managing public land. “We come in as a valuable resource and tool for local governments. We have a great relationship with many local government agencies, and we have found that our voice is amplified if we work with and through the state and the counties as opposed to just dealing with the federal agencies alone,” said Swenson.

Grass Roots Involvement

USA-ALL issues e-mail alerts to its members to motivate them into attending meetings held by the county governments and members also participate in work projects. For example, volunteers installed fencing to protect an endangered cactus at Factory Butte. “No environmentalists groups are doing that. It is motorized recreationists,” emphasized Swenson. Members also volunteer for events and man the USA-ALL booths at expos. They also assist by distributing the organization’s newsletter as well as other information across the state and they also assist with donations.

“We are a non-profit organization,” explained Swenson. “We don’t have huge corporate sponsors. We don’t have big companies giving us tons of money. We are dependent on the guys on the ground, the moms and pops who want to recreate and who donate money to our organization. We always are in need of more funding. It’s simple really. Dollars equal action and results. When we have more dollars to spend, we get more done.”

Although the organization has not held rides to promote its agenda, it is now considering it. “We haven’t done it until now because of a permit issue,” said Swenson. “If rides are done on public lands, we need to get permits and that involves a fairly lengthy process. A lot of the areas where we would like to hold rides are places managed by the BLM, and they are not our biggest fan. We feel like they may throw a wrench into the permit process. So we are looking for state and county areas for the rides. Right now there is a need to work through a lot of red tape. However, when it happens, we will be publicizing it; and we expect to have a whole lot of people participating.”

Swenson concluded that motorized recreationists are unfairly viewed by a lot of organizations as dumb, uneducated rednecks who don’t care about the environment. “It simply isn’t true,” he countered. “These are some of the best people you could ever want to meet. Also, in many cases they are tied to the health of the land. It is in their best interest to keep our environment healthy.

“I grew up in rural Utah in a town that had just a couple thousand people,” continued Swenson. “I played in these areas that environmentalists organizations say are so pristine they need to be closed from public access in order to protect them. However, what they do not tell you is that the public has been using that land for decades and has kept it pristine. That means people are using that land and the land remains nice. So there is no reason why they can’t continue to use that land responsibly.”

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