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By: Robert Janis

Stay on Trails

Collaboration between Concerned Factions Help to Discourage Rogue Use of Trust Lands

La Sal Mountains of Utah

Chris Fausett, resource specialist and project coordinator.

LaSal Mountains Trails, Utah

In October the agency dedicated 134 miles of off-road trails that are a part of the project. Present at the ceremony were members of ATV clubs as well as local and state officials and one of the 10 information kiosks was unveiled.

In October the agency dedicated 134 miles of off-road trails that are a part of the project. Present at the ceremony were members of ATV clubs as well as local and state officials and one of the 10 information kiosks was unveiled.

One issue that has the potential of upsetting avid OHV enthusiasts the most is land closings. OHV-related organizations like the BlueRibbon Coalition and local clubs throughout the country work overtime to stop the federal, state, and local governments and land owners who may have previously allowed access to their lands from closing trails. You could say that in some regions of the country this issue has led to civic civil wars.

Not so for the case of a project at the La Sal Mountains of Utah. Much of the land in the area, which includes the Moab territory, is administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, and a good portion is under the control of an independent government agency of the State of Utah. The agency is the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). According to Kim Christy, assistant director and project coordinator for SITLA, the Agency administers about 3.4 million acres of land across the state of Utah. “This land was granted to the State of Utah by the United States at statehood with the requirement that it be managed for the financial benefit of the beneficiaries, primarily the public schools as well as other land grant institutions which include the University of Utah, Utah State University, and others,” explained Christy.

“Revenue for the schools and other beneficiaries is raised by the management activities of the agency which include land sales, mineral leasing, and leasing land for a variety of uses such as telecommunications, commercial, industrial, recreational, farming, timber harvesting, and grazing lands for livestock. For example, the agency has a contract with Western Excelsior, a timber operation based in Colorado, that harvests and also helps to regenerate timber stands in the region,” said Christy.

Christy pointed out that the agency has always had a policy of allowing public recreation on its land. “They (recreationists) have been using our land in various capacities, especially where we sit in a sea of federal domain principally the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property,” said Christy. ATV recreationists have been using the land for decades, he added.

The Problem

Lands that could be used by ATVers was designated but not well marked. So rogue ATV riders have carved out a number of trails or roads without any authority. It is that rogue activity that has created a problem. The administrators of the agency want to continue to allow ATV recreation on the land, but they want it better managed, and they want to “decommission” the trails that have been carved through the land by rogue riders. “We believed that we had some serious undisciplined uses taking place, and the resource degradation issues were enough of a serious threat to us that we decided to try to mobilize an effort among the stake holders in a collaborative way,” said Christy.

According to Christy, there are two areas in question--the North La Sal Block and the South La Sal Block. “It has actually been something that has been concerning us for a number of years,” said Christy. “Two years ago we mobilized an effort both internally and in collaboration with the two counties that we are affiliated with due to where the blocks sit. We are working with the counties’ governments as well as trying to collaborate with ATV organizations from that area to see if we can come up with a way to manage use better.”

Once all the factions were signed on, the agency did an inventory of the roads and trails on their land. “We actually went out and digitized the entire road and trail systems networks in both blocks,” said Christy. “Then we compared them to a county assessment that took place about 15 years ago in the mid-1990s. We were shocked to find literally a 40-percent increase in the amount of roads present today compared to 15 years ago.”
The data showed that the agency had a serious problem that needed to be put under control. They decided that they did not want to entirely eliminate ATV recreationists from the area, but they did decide that they wanted to manage the use to save the resources.

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