Locals rebel against road closures

  Fierce opposition has delayed a Forest Service plan to close 210 miles of old logging roads in southwestern Utah.


Local residents wrote letters, circulated petitions and turned out in large numbers for public meetings in Cedar City and Kanab last month, protesting the proposed limits on motorized access to the Dixie National Forest.


"We've gotten over 170 written responses to our scoping letter. That's more responses than we received for any timber sale I know of," says Craig Kendall, a Dixie hydrologist.


In some parts of the forest, road density is more than twice the two miles of road per square mile standard set by the Forest Service, and maintenance costs threaten to bust the forest's budget. The proposed road closures were intended to restore degraded wildlife habitat and water quality in some heavily roaded areas.


Because of the outcry, Dixie officials plan to set up a "collaborative working group" that includes landowners, off-road vehicle users and environmentalists.


Kendall says that at least some of the roads will eventually be closed, probably next year. But the delay has disappointed environmental groups, who had praised the road closure plan.


"(The proposal) was the best thing to come out of Dixie for a long time. We're disappointed that they're not going ahead," says Liz Thomas of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "They're not in compliance with their Forest Service plan. Water quality is being degraded; habitat is being impacted. That's not acceptable."


* Lisa Church


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