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ABOUT THE ZION-MOJAVE WILDERNESS PROPOSAL
Utah wilderness finds a multitude of expressions in the Zion-Mojave proposed wilderness. While most of the arid lands of Utah occur within two geographic provinces – the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin – in the extreme southwest corner of the state, the two landscapes entwine with the Mojave Desert, resulting in a marvelous swirl of ecological and geological diversity that challenges even the deftest imagination. The Mojave Desert—which, at Beaver Dam Wash, is barely more than 2,000 feet in elevation—it is the lowest, warmest place in the state. Here, the lifelike arms of Joshua trees wave wildly alongside gaunt arroyos and stark rock outcroppings, the lonesome Beaver Dam Mountains looming just beyond. Rising to the north of this region are the craggy slopes and isolated pinyon-juniper woodlands of Cougar Canyon and Doc’s Pass, typical of the Great Basin province. And Red Mountain, the stunning sandstone backdrop to the growing town of Ivins, contains hundreds of archaeological sites and a transition zone of vegetation—where Sonoran zone yucca and agave mingle with higher-elevation Gambel oak. Across Interstate 15, the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau descends to meet the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin. This is Greater Zion, surrounding Zion National Park, and here redrock temples, profound gorges, and ponderosa-studded plateaus complete the fantastically complex Zion-Mojave proposed wilderness.
Many of the species that exist in this far southwest corner of Utah exist nowhere else in the state, and without adequate protection they will effectively be extinct in Utah. The Zion-Mojave proposed wilderness is home to one of the nation’s largest, healthy populations of endangered desert tortoise. Other Federal and state listed species known to occur in the Mojave Desert include the Holmgren milkvetch, Townsend’s big-eared bat, desert night lizard, desert iguana and Mojave rattlesnake, while herds of mule deer and predators such as cougar and black bear roam the Greater Zion region. Significant raptor communities inhabit the rock outcroppings and cliff faces throughout the entire region—including peregrine falcon and both bald and golden eagles. The Virgin River and its tributaries, the main sources of water in the Zion-Mojave, contain the endangered roundtail chub, woundfin, virgin spinedace and Virgin River chub. The Zion-Mojave Wilderness is an extraordinary biological treasure.
The Zion-Mojave proposed wilderness offers a variety of recreation opportunities for experiencing and enjoying the region. Wonderful, quiet hikes are available in every proposed wilderness unit. The challenging passes of the Greater Zion area provide alternative access routes to popular places in Zion National Park and are impressive sights in their own right. Meanwhile, the proximity of the Red Mountain, Cottonwood Canyon, Beaver Dam Wash, and Joshua Tree units to Interstate 15 give the dwellers of St. George an easy escape to the wild. The dense forests of Cougar Canyon and Doc’s Pass Wilderness Areas offer some of the finest deer hunting in the area, and with the only native fishery in the region, the upper section of Beaver Dam Wash makes for great trout fishing. The diverse ecosystem of this transition zone has created unmatched birding and animal photography opportunities throughout the Zion-Mojave. Whether you are a hiker, horseback rider, hunter, angler, or amateur archaeologist, the Zion-Mojave wilderness beckons to outdoors enthusiasts.
The pleasant climate of the Zion-Mojave proposed wilderness area has made Washington County the fastest-growing county in Utah. St. George is a burgeoning metropolis—experts predict a five-fold increase in population over the next 45 years—and it seeks the water it needs to sustain its insane growth pace. Throughout the Zion-Mojave propose wilderness, water developments are proposed that will adversely affect the character and viability of the surrounding public lands.Growth isn’t the only problem. The Zion-Mojave proposed wilderness has become a world-class destination for many forms of outdoor recreation, and unmanaged off-road vehicle (ORV) use stands as one of the greatest threats to the wild Zion-Mojave. Registration of these machines statewide has jumped from 22,000 in 1988 to over 160,000 today. Washington County has nearly 8,000 registered ORVs and is the fastest growing county in Utah for ORV registration. Despite such alarming ORV growth, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proven unwilling and unable to control ORV abuse, and recently they cut off funding for a long overdo revision to the St. George area travel plan. Only by officially designating the Zion-Mojave as Wilderness will this astonishing amalgamation of landscapes and biology be preserved for the years to come.