Call to Action - GSENM | Utah Back Country Pilots Association

Call to Action - GSENM

Posted August 23rd, 2022

There is a Public Scoping period underway for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) Resource Management Plan (RMP). The BLM is getting ready to prepare an EIS and an RMP and needs public input on the scope and issues to be addressed. This isn't the last time that we will get a chance to comment on the RMP, but better to comment early and at every opportunity. Even if you participate in the Zoom meeting, it is still best to submit your personal comments electronically.

There are 6 Utah backcountry airstrips in the EIS/RMP study area:

  • Boulder - 37.88548 N / 111.46342 W
  • Collet Top - 37.45633 N / 111.467 W
  • Colt Mesa - 37.74 N / 111.08834 W
  • Grand Bench - 37.27334 N / 111.195 W
  • Pilot Knoll - 37.24317 N / 111.491 W
  • Squaw Bench - 37.36817 N / 111.66333 W

We all need to submit public comments to encourage the BLM to MAKE AVIATION AN ALLOWED AND RECOGNIZED USE in the RMP. Most of these airstrips were created during the 1950s as a result of uranium exploration during the Cold War. These airstrips have a historical use which pre-dates the creation of the GSENM. Although in recent years, there has been low use of these airstrips, that use should be preserved and not eliminated.

To submit public comments electronically, go to the following link and click on the PARTICIPATE NOW button at the bottom on the left side: Participate Now!

We can also voice our comment at a Zoom meeting on August 30 where the BLM will be holding a scoping meeting open to the public. You can REGISTER for the Zoom meeting via the following link:
Register for Zoom Meeting

The deadline to submit comments on the scope of the proposed EIS & RMP is September 27, 2022. As you craft your individual comments, here are some points that can be used to justify aviation as an allowed use for the backcountry airstrips in Utah:

  • Aviation should be included in the RMP as an allowable use.
  • Most of the Utah backcountry airstrips have been in existence since the 1950s, long before passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Access and use of these airstrips should be retained.
  • Aviation has a very small environmental footprint, the lightest footprint form of access to these lands. Airstrips do not have driving wheels and once landed, do not go “off trail.” Noise from aircraft is insignificant and transient and short duration as a recreational aircraft flies overhead.
  • Airstrips are situated on natural flat land features, such as level, open meadows with little occurrence of soil disturbance or erosion.
  • Airstrips can provide vital access to aid Search and Rescue, emergency response, and firefighting operations.
  • Airstrips offer possible life-saving options when small aircraft encounter mechanical problems or deteriorating weather conditions while flying over the relatively hostile terrain in southern Utah.
  • Airstrips are an excellent addition to the administrative needs for supervising the lands.
  • Airstrips transcend the need for roads and offer widely dispersed recreation activities.
  • Peer-reviewed research supports noise from small aircraft has no detrimental impact on wildlife.
  • Backcountry airstrips offer recreational access to the disabled and those with limited mobility and without the need for strenuous physical activity to enjoy our public lands.
  • Airstrips are trailheads: aviators are non-motorized recreationists, participating in hiking, camping and other low-impact activities.
  • Backcountry aviation offers a positive economic impact, with aviation fuel sales, food and lodging, sale of provisions and supplies, and other tourist-related support for the surrounding communities.
  • The Utah Backcountry Pilots have successfully renewed MOUs in place with the BLM to provide cooperative maintenance of backcountry airstrips.

Thanks again for your continued support of our efforts to preserve and protect Utah's backcountry airstrips. And many thanks to Board Member Wendy Lessig for keeping up on these comment periods!

The UBCP Board