The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management are asking for public feedback on a plan to change how parts of the Virgin River in and surrounding Zion National Park are managed.
The research and recommendations listed in “The Virgin River Comprehensive Management Plan” were conducted after portions of the river and its tributaries were added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 2009. Under the act, rivers that are of outstanding natural, cultural and recreational value may be preserved.
Kezia Nielsen, the environmental protection specialist at Zion National Park, says the plan makes suggestions for more than just how to protect the water quality, wildlife and environment surrounding the rivers.
“We’re also looking at what types of developments could or should be along the river segment. We’re looking at…the number of people that could be able to access these areas, while protecting those resources that were identified in the legislation,” Nielsen said.
The plan covers 144 miles of river within Zion National Park as well as 19 miles of river managed by the BLM. All but around two miles are already protected by the Wilderness Act.
Nielsen says the new plan looks to build on the protections of the wilderness designation by focusing on how the land may be used for recreation.
“In some ways, it’s quite easy to protect and enhance the free flowing condition and water quality and protect wildlife and ecological processes because they are also in wilderness. What this plan does is it builds upon that and identifies ways we can protect these segments and also have them available for people to recreate on,” Nielsen said.
Three sessions to learn about and comment on the plan will be held this week around the state, starting today in St. George. Comments may be submitted online through September 9.
A link to the plan can be found here: http://www.nps.gov/zion/parknews/vr_mngt_plan_comment.htm.