Goblin Valley State Park just tripled in size. What has changed?

Goblin Valley State Park tripled in size this month when the Bureau of Land Management transferred 6,300 acres of state land to the state park. The expansion of the park will improve recreational opportunities as well as public safety, officials said.

Like many other state parks in Utah, Goblin Valley has seen an increase in visitor numbers in recent years. The park welcomed more than 40,000 visitors each month during September and October 2021, the state reported. At the signing of the June 17 land transfer, Utah Division of State Parks director Jeff Rasmussen said Goblin Valley is one of the state’s most popular parks, with nearly 500,000 visitors annually.

Officials at the signing emphasized the collaboration between federal and state agencies that led to the land transfer and touched on a hot topic for many Utahns.

“We can promote the economic prosperity of the communities surrounding these great public lands while protecting and preserving America’s treasures,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning.

“These types of operations – where we’re able to work together, where we can work together, rather than fighting to find solutions, how we can make better use of the resources we have – are something I believe we can do as a Citizens of the United States and the State of Utah can all be proud of it,” said Brian Steed, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Visitors to Goblin Valley won’t immediately encounter major changes on the park’s newly acquired land, park manager Jim Wells told The Salt Lake Tribune. Old bridleways and trailheads previously maintained by the BLM will come under the park’s wing, and scattered camping will continue to be permitted.

The expansion includes all of Goblin Valley Road and part of Little Wild Horse Road. Wildhorse Canyon, Crack Canyon, Chute Canyon, and Wild Horse Window Arch are some of the popular attractions that are now within the state park boundaries.

Little Wild Horse Canyon and Temple Mountain, two very popular nearby areas, are not included in transportation.

“The starting points have always been here,” Wells said. “They’re not new, but we’ll let people know they exist.”

To improve impact and recovery on the recently transferred land, Goblin Valley plans to deploy additional patrols, particularly to scattered camping areas. Officials have received complaints of illegal dumping, noise pollution, and illegal restrooms at these sites.

Wells said the park currently has no plans to build an entrance station or collect fees for the new parkland.

To access the areas brought into the park, roads previously maintained by the BLM and county roads will remain open. The state park will also close illegally created trails and campgrounds for restoration work.

“We already have some things on hand to make an immediate impact,” Wells said.

Greg Sheehan, director of the BLM state office, also signed two more land transfers to Emery County on Friday.

One will create a new site for an Emery County Sheriff’s Office substation to be built on 5 acres adjacent to Utah State Route 6.

“This promotion will be of tremendous importance to the public safety of recreational athletes in the area,” Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk said in a statement.

He added that the new substation would allow BLM, Emery County and state officials to more effectively respond to emergency situations and better communicate weather conditions to the public.

The second transfer involves the Buckhorn Information Center, managed by the BLM Price Field Office and Emery County, which will be expanded by 3 acres to accommodate more historical exhibits.

BLM Green River District Manager Lance Porter said the information center plays an important role in providing guidance for visitors to rest with respect.

The Goblin Valley expansion is the result of bipartisan federal legislation co-sponsored by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, which was passed in 2019. It was the broadest public land law in decades, establishing hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation and recreation areas in Emery and Uintah counties.

Named after the late Rep. John Dingell, the bill also authorized a massive land swap, swapping school trust sections for federal lands in other parts of the state. The law designated the Jurassic National Monument at Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.

Conservative lawmakers have generally opposed expanding conservation areas, but many, including Romney, have praised the land transfers.

“Utah is and always will be a public land state,” Romney said in a statement Friday. “Today’s event is a great success story and shows that we must continue to look for public land solutions that come from the bottom up – not top down.”

Romney’s comments echo those of former Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, who said the legislation established national monuments and wildlife sanctuaries in 2019 “in the right way.”

The wrong path — for Romney, Bishop, and other prominent Utah conservatives — is for such monuments and conservation areas to be established through presidential action, such as President Barack Obama’s executive order creating Bears Ears National Monument in 2016. President Trump then shrank the monument in 2017. while President Biden returned Bears Ears to its original area last October.

Utah plans to file a lawsuit to challenge Biden’s restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, claiming that such large designations exceed the scope of the Antiquities Act. Goblin Valley State Park just tripled in size. What has changed?

Joel McCord

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