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Contact: Paul Henderson, (435) 719-2140
The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that it has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the recently completed environmental assessment (EA) regarding recreational access to Middle Salt Creek Canyon in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The preferred alternative in the EA, which prohibits motor vehicles in Middle Salt Creek Canyon (i.e. above Peekaboo camp) and Angel Arch canyon year-round, has been selected for implementation. This alternative provides the greatest protection of the resources and allows access by stock and foot traffic.
The EA was developed with extensive public input beginning in February 2001. Scoping announcements were distributed to local and regional newspapers, interested tribal governments, and a mailing list of over 2,000 individuals. During March and April of 2001, the park held a series of public meetings at six regional locations (Monticello, Blanding, Moab, Salt Lake City, Durango and Denver). The park received a total of 2,555 scoping responses. The EA was made available for public review and comment during a 45-day period ending August 12, 2002. Notices of availability were sent to local and regional newspapers, interested tribes, a mailing list of over 2,000 individuals, as well as being posted on the park web site. Approximately 7,300 comments were received; five from government agencies, 17 organizations, one tribal government, with the remainder from individuals.
Litigation is still ongoing concerning the use of motor vehicles in Middle Salt Creek Canyon. In 1998 the U.S. District Court for the State of Utah ruled that limited use of motor vehicles in Middle Salt Creek Canyon, under the provisions of the 1995 Canyonlands Backcountry Management Plan, caused impairment of park resources and thus violated the NPS Organic Act. Four-wheel-drive groups appealed the decision, and in 2000 the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case back to the district court. The remand included instructions to re-examine the administrative record and consider the revised NPS Management Policies in regard to the question of “impairment of park resources or values,” the central issue in the case. The NPS proposed a new environmental assessment process to resolve this question, taking advantage of additional scientific information and applying the new NPS impairment policy, and the district court stayed its proceedings until completion of the EA.
Copies of the FONSI may be obtained by writing to the Superintendent at 2282 S. West Resource Boulevard, Moab, Utah 84532.