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Groups urge BLM to keep off-road vehicles out of Utah’s Labyrinth Canyon

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Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

(Utah News Connection) Conservation groups say more needs to be done to protect the natural and cultural resources of Utah's Labyrinth Canyon from off-road vehicles.

The Bureau of Land Management is taking comments until October 7 on a draft travel management plan for the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area outside of Moab.

Laura Peterson, a staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said more than 1,200 miles of off-road vehicle routes blanket the area.

"Motorized vehicles are allowed in certain parts along the river and in a number of side canyons," she said, "and that really impacts riparian areas, habitat, soils, vegetation, but also the experience on the river as well."

The BLM has released four plan options for determining vehicle use in the areas for decades to come. Peterson contended that the plan known as "Alternative B" is the only one that would protect the entire river corridor while reducing the route density in Gold Bar Rim, Deadman Point, Day Canyon and other pristine areas. 

There are 40 miles of the Green River running within Labyrinth Canyon. Peterson noted that it's a designated Wild and Scenic River for its recreational, scenic, ecological and cultural values.

"It's one of the few places in the West where you have a flatwater wilderness experience. And it's this unique situation, where the Emery County side of the river is protected wilderness and the Grand County side is not," she said. "And so, that makes for disparate management on either side."

According to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, more than 94% of land within the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area is within a half mile of a designated off-road vehicle route. Peterson said reducing route density and minimizing user conflicts is important for those seeking quiet recreation in the area.