Volunteers test county claims in potential wilderness areas

  • An abandoned prospector road in Garfield County, Utah

    Courtesy SUWA
  In Utah, one way counties fight a possible designation of wilderness is by claiming a road runs through it.

Some commissioners in Utah who fear that wilderness will ruin local economies cite a law dating from 1866, R.S. 2477, to claim rights-of-way through Bureau of Land Management lands that might be considered roadless.

But are these old roads really roads? Along with other members of the Utah Wilderness Coalition, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has enlisted "road warriors' to find out.

Volunteers are given little more than a map and a documentation form, then told to go to remote areas of the state and see what is on the ground.

Gail Hoskisson, who coordinates the effort from the SUWA offices in Salt Lake City, says counties claim over 6,000 R.S. 2477 roads throughout Utah. That number may not hold up, thanks to over 256 volunteers who venture into the backcountry with cameras and notebooks. But more volunteers are needed. "Everybody that goes out," Hoskisson says, "comes back with an almost dazed smile."

For more information, call Hoskisson at 801/350-4854 or the SUWA office at 801/486-3161.

* Cheryl Fox
High Country News Classifieds