CEDAR CITY – The federal government is in the process of an environmental study that if approved will create approximately 500 miles of interconnecting trails for off-highway vehicles throughout Iron County.
About 30 people turned out Thursday night for an open house to view plans and maps of the proposed trail system.
The event, held in Cedar City at Festival Hall, was hosted by Iron County and Interagency land managers from various agencies including the Bureau of Land Management and Dixie National Forest. The Trail Blazers All-Terrain Vehicle Club of Cedar City also helped sponsor the open house.
There are currently about 250 miles of trails throughout the east side of Iron County. The trail range now undergoing an environmental study is located in the area of the Black Mountains, just northwest of the Parowan Gap, and will add another 250 miles to the ones already in place.
The area in question is known to have sage grouse protected under the Endangered Species Act and requires an environmental study, said Iron County Natural Resource Specialist Mike Worthen.
“It’s going to take about six months to finish the environmental study,” Worthen said. “They (BLM representatives) say it’s going to go relatively fast and it does seem to be going faster than I’ve seen it take before in other situations.”
Worthen said he did not think the sage grouse will prevent the BLM from developing the trail system.
“It’s (the study) just all part of the process and something we have to go through but no one I’ve talked to thinks the sage grouse will create an issue or impact the trail system,” he added.
Avid OHV rider Dave McIntire said he supports the trail system and is looking forward to when it’s completed.
McIntire, a Cedar City resident, pointed to the larger trail paths as one of the primary reasons he believes the new system will be better than others already in place.
“The new (OHV) vehicles are wider than 50 inches and a lot of the new trails being built by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife are either 50 inches or less so these new vehicles can’t get through. If they come to a trail that is only 50 inches they have to stop and turn around,” he said. “These trails in the Black Mountain area are old trails so they’re already bigger than 50 inches so the newer vehicles can get through without any issues or problems.”
Representatives from the state Department of Natural Resources met with the County Commissioners nearly two years ago to introduce the idea of the trail system.
The discussion then was largely focused on the economic benefit the trail system would bring.
“It’s a benefit for all to have these trail systems connected. In other areas of the state where we have connected the trail systems together they become destination areas where people want to stay,” said OHV Program Manager Chris Haller. “We have found it’s a huge economic boost to those areas where they have developed their OHV trail systems.”
Worthen said Thursday he believed the proposed trail system would help to bring in tourism by giving people something else to do when visiting Iron County.
The BLM is accepting public comments until March 31. If interested or for additional information, contact Dave Jacobson at 435-865-3010, Mike Worthin with Iron County at 435-865-5357 or Nick Glidden with the U.S. Forest Service at 435-865-3747.
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