A perplexing direction taken on BLM lands | AspenTimes.com

A perplexing direction taken on BLM lands

The Bureau of Land Management's Moab Field Office approved construction of this gas pipeline above ground outside of Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island In the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.

I was fortunate to spend considerable time mountain biking in eastern Utah this year. (Some people go to exotic locales during spring and fall offseasons; I go to Moab and Fruita.)

Something that stands out besides the great riding and fabulous times around campfires with friends is the management practices of the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM has a perpetual target on its back from environmentalists who don't think it does enough to protect stunning parts of canyon country and off-road-vehicle enthusiasts who feel the agency is too restrictive. The criticism comes with the territory when an agency oversees millions of acres of public lands.

Anyway, I think the BLM is doing a credible job with its travel-management and recreation-management plans when you look at them with an isolated lens. Sure, I yearn for the days when you could camp along the potash road wherever you could find an old fire ring among the cottonwoods. That was the 1980s. Moab's popularity has soared to the point where the BLM had to designate camping to prevent every nook and cranny from getting converted into a campsite and to deal with human waste.

The BLM also has achieved a Herculean task of placing signs on just about every route to designate them closed or open. Like everyone, I'm bummed that a route here or there has been closed. On Sunday, I picked up a well-traveled, singletrack trail off the Kokopelli Trail in the Westwater area and followed it for 30 minutes, only to find the far end marked as closed. So, there are some bugs in the travel-management system.

But here's the thing that makes me scratch my head. How can an agency that spends so much good energy on travel and recreation management be the same agency that trips over its feet to make beneficial decisions for the oil-and-gas industry? More to the point, why would I feel guilty about riding a well-worn singletrack that is now closed when countless roads to new drill pads are getting ripped across the desert? Why is the agency so determined to prevent me from camping at a decades-old spot when it is approving pipelines — eyesores above ground — on the doorstep of Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, both in Utah?

I have a sinking feeling that the care the BLM is putting into recreation and travel management won't be applied to Big Oil anytime soon.