Left, a spring wildflower bloom enhances Factory Butte’s unique photographic appeal in Utah. Right, Extensive ruts left by ORVs near Factory Butte remain visible even after torrential rainfall. Courtesy/Ray Bloxham/SUWA
MOAB, Utah ― The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) reports that without prior notice or opportunity for public input, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Richfield Field Office announced Wednesday that it is opening 5,400 acres of public lands surrounding Utah’s iconic Factory Butte to unfettered cross-country off-road vehicle (ORV) use.
The BLM’s decision reverses a 2006 closure of the area to ORV use and will allow unrestricted motorized travel throughout the designated “play area.”
The 2006 closure followed a petition filed with the BLM by SUWA outlining the devastating effects of unmanaged cross-country travel by ORVs. The closure was necessary to protect the federally-listed endangered Wright fishhook (Scierocactus wrightiae) and Winkler (Pediocactus winkleri) cacti from direct mortality due to cross-country ORV travel.
SUWA has monitored the Factory Butte ORV closure area since 2006 and has documented ongoing and intentional ORV violations and associated damage to natural resources.
“The BLM’s decision to allow destructive, unregulated cross-country motorized use on the remarkable public lands surrounding Factory Butte – one of Utah’s most well-known landmarks – is outrageous,” Kya Marienfeld, SUWA Wildlands Attorney said. “When the BLM rightly closed these lands to motorized use in 2006, it recognized that off-road vehicles are a significant threat to federally protected cactus species in the area. We don’t believe the BLM has done what it takes to make sure that the same damage doesn’t immediately resume.”
“It’s remarkable that at a time when BLM has informed us that they’ll likely miss a court-ordered deadline to complete a new ORV travel plan for all of the Henry Mountains Field Station, including Factory Butte, they’ve somehow found the staff time and resources to open Factory Butte to off-road vehicle abuse immediately before Memorial Day weekend,” added SUWA Travel Management Attorney Laura Peterson. “With decreasing cactus populations and increasing ORV violations of the closure over recent years, its difficult to see how the agency expects any outcome other than once-again imperiling these listed species.”
“SUWA has worked for more than 20 years to protect this place, and we don’t have any intention of walking away from it now,” Marienfeld said.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) works to preserve Utah’s remaining desert wild lands, known collectively as America’s redrock wilderness. Since 1983, SUWA has been the only independent organization working full-time to defend America’s redrock wilderness from oil and gas development, unnecessary road construction, rampant off-road vehicle use, and other threats to Utah’s wilderness-quality lands. SUWA is a qualified non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code.