BLM seeks to end primitive camping at Klondike Bluffs

Damage to environment leads to push for campgrounds

While dispersed camping is allowed at more than 90 percent of land in the Bureau of Land Management’s Canyon County District, far too many people are mistreating the land by driving off-road and not cleaning up after themselves.
Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Citing damage to wildlife habitats – some that are home to threatened or endangered species –the Bureau of Land Management’s Moab Field Office is in the process of shutting down dispersed camping at the Klondike Bluffs Mountain Bike Trail off Highway 191, 23 miles north of Moab.

The BLM in its Environmental Assessment also cited damage to soils and vegetation, cultural and paleontological resources, recreational opportunities, scenic values and grazing as justification for its plan to put a stop to dispersed camping, also commonly referred to as dry or primitive camping, at the more than 14,600-acre site.

Instead, the BLM hopes to designate campsites and provide campgrounds with proper disposal of solid human waste and a limitation on collecting wood at Klondike Bluffs.

The assessment notes the “almost constant use” of Klondike Bluffs has led to damage of the above-mentioned resources. The BLM in southeastern Utah hosts about 3 million visitors a year. How many of them want to camp is unknown, but the more than 600 campsites it already provides in the region fill up and that leads to more dry campers than ever before.

The need is explained by the BLM thusly: “Managing camping in the Klondike Bluffs Mountain Bike Focus Area is needed to maintain the quality of recreation opportunities, provide for sanitation and public safety, halt ongoing impacts and prevent future degradation of the resource values that visitors value. The need for the BLM to manage campaign and provide sustainable camping opportunities in the heavily visited [Klondike Bluffs]. With an increase in visitation, camping opportunities need to be expanded on BLM lands.”

While the BLM moves from unmanaged to managed camping at Klondike Bluffs, Grand County is working with the Utah Schools and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to regulate the growing number of dispersed campers at the Dalton Wells paleontological site near Arches National Park.

Dispersed camping is not going to be banned outright according to ?????. More than 90 percent of BLM-managed land in the region is open to it, after all. Lisa Bryant, the spokesperson for the BLM’s Canyon Country District, which encompasses the Moab and Monticello field offices and 3.6 million acres, made it clear the BLM promotes camping.

“Many of us remember camping as kids. It is a time-honored family tradition, and public lands provide many opportunities for different types of camping from a developed campground next to the Colorado River or a remote desert site far from city lights and other people,” she said.

Still, Bryant said campers need to take care to protect the environment for future generations to enjoy.

“The first principle of Leave No Trace is planning ahead,” she said. “We find a lot of people show up late in the evening and don’t know where to go and aren’t prepared, particularly in the busy season when campground tend to fill early. There’s plenty of information available and it’s always good to be prepared to spend a night at lodging in town if you come in late versus camping illegally or where you could cause resource damage.”

Bryant said a common expression for land managers is “respected access is open access.”