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Contact: Paul Henderson, (435) 719-2140
The National Park Service has released the Environmental Assessment (EA) that evaluates a range of alternatives for recreational access in Salt Creek Canyon in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The document is available for downloading (see below). Printed copies may be requested by writing to the Superintendent, 2282 S. West Resource Boulevard, Moab, Utah 84532 or by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The public comment period will run through August 12, 2002.
Salt Creek is the most extensive perennial water source and riparian ecosystem in Canyonlands National Park, other than the Green and Colorado Rivers. It is also the heart of the Salt Creek Archeological District, the area with the highest recorded density of archeological sites in the park. A tributary canyon to Salt Creek contains the spectacular Angel Arch.
Motorized, street-legal vehicles were permitted to travel along and in the streambed until June 1998. At that time, the U.S. District Court of Utah issued an injunction on motorized vehicle travel in Salt Creek, finding that this activity permanently impaired unique park resources and thus violated the National Park Service Organic Act (16 USC 1). Off-road vehicle groups appealed the ruling, and in August 2000 the federal Tenth Circuit Court reversed the first decision and remanded it for further consideration. District Court review of the case is still underway.
The most recent management plan affecting Salt Creek, the 1995 parkwide backcountry management plan, established a permit system and a daily limit on the number of vehicles in Salt Creek. Since that planning effort, however, several important changes have occurred. The National Park Service has revised its Management Policies implementing the statutory provision prohibiting impairment of park resources and values. Additional information has been gathered on Salt Creek canyon through the park's ongoing monitoring program and independent research efforts. To take into account these changes and to respond to the litigation, the park undertook a new National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) planning process for Salt Creek canyon. The process considered and assessed the impacts of a broad range of alternatives for the canyon.
Issues identified and analyzed in the planning process include the type of recreational experience desired by visitors, and the effects of motorized and non-motorized travel on the riparian ecosystem, wetlands, archeological features, and water quality. The management alternatives evaluated include unlimited motorized use, realignment or structural modification of the existing four-wheel-drive route, limits on numbers of vehicles, and seasonal or year-round prohibitions on motorized vehicles.