BLM responds to deaths at The Wave

The Wave, Kane County, Utah, Jan. 2013 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

ST. GEORGE— The Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, most notably the Coyote Buttes area, is an exceptionally beautiful and fragile place with high public demand for access.  The Bureau of Land Management will continue to issue a limited number of permits allowing visitors to Coyote Buttes and the popular “Wave.”  The permit system assures the BLM can advise visitors of the inherent dangers and necessary preparations for a trek into the wilderness.

“As a part of the permitting process, the BLM provides to each permit holder safety briefings and information concerning the arduous nature of the hike and the potentially dangerous conditions related to heat and other climatic factors,” Scott Florence, BLM Arizona Strip District Manager, said.

The tragic recent hiking fatalities reinforce the importance of the current permit system, which assures that all visitors receive relevant information regarding the risks related to hiking in any backcountry or wilderness area.

“Visitor safety is always BLM’s No. 1 priority,” Florence said.

The BLM has completed an analysis of the circumstances surrounding these tragic events.  As a result, the BLM has identified the following actions to enhance visitor safety messaging to be implemented immediately:

  • Translate informational/safety brochures and video into the major languages of foreign visitors (already in progress).
  • Revise the BLM Arizona and Utah webpages to put greater emphasis on safety (such as emphasizing the difficulty of the hike to the Wave).
  • Develop a new safety interpretive sign at the Wire Pass trailhead.
  • Produce a condensed version of the current safety video to be shown at the Kanab Visitor Center (before or after the walk-in lottery) and featured more prominently on the BLM websites.

Other longer term actions are being considered and could be implemented after further internal discussion and analysis.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.

The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

In Fiscal Year 2012, activities on public lands generated $4.6 billion in revenue, much of which was shared with the States where the activities occurred. In addition, public lands contributed more than $112 billion to the U.S. economy and helped support more than 500,000 jobs.

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