By: Staff  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

On March 1, 2005, the US Bureau of Land Management reversed a ban imposed on hiking dogs within the boundaries of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness permit areas that it had imposed on January 1, 2003. The restrictions were lifted completely, without exception, also reopening the magnificent Coyote Buttes area to people who enjoy hiking in the company of their dogs.

The ban was first reported to the public in July 2002 when the BLM announced its intention to ban hiking dogs from the wilderness. In an article appearing in the Lake Powell Chronicle on November 12, 2002, BLM public information officer David Boyd said,

"We continue to see waste problems with the dogs," said Boyd, who noted that humans are given special bags to pack out their waste.


"However, what the dogs leave behind is not the only problem. Some-times their interactions with people and other dogs become an issue.

"Another big problem is that the canyon is so narrow in places, we are having close interactions between dogs and people who do not want dogs coming right up to them," Boyd said, noting that people do not have much space to get away from the dog. "Some dogs have been flat-out aggressive toward other people and other dogs. And, in those narrow areas, you are going to interact with the dogs when you pass them."


An additional concern is the impact the dogs can have on the natural resources, according to Boyd. One example is the degradation of the cryptobiotic soil, which most hikers avoid stepping on, while dogs do not know any better.

In the Coyote Buttes area - where the popular geological formation known as The Wave is located - dogs also may step on and claw around delicate sandstone formations.

"Those three things: waste, interactions and the damage (to the environment) are the reasons we are restricting dogs," said Boyd, who noted the restriction starts Jan. 1.

In the Spring 2003 edition of the NAIA News, I authored an article that was critical of the BLM ban and labeled their claims of adverse dog impacts as specious. This article can be read at: /articles/archives/dogs_public_lands.htm

Several things have occurred in since January 2003. The BLM Recreation Manager that implemented the dog ban is no longer responsible for the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Replacing him is Dave Kiel, who was willing to re-examine the evidence for banning dogs from the wilderness.

Public outcry against the ban was definitely a motivating force. In a conversation I had with Mr. Kiel, he alluded to a substantial volume of correspondence from the public in opposition to the ban. I am certain that readers of my NAIA News article who were motivated to write had a tremendous impact on the BLM in this matter.

Much has been gained but much is still at risk. If you examine the BLM press release (https://www.az.blm.gov/paria/NewsRelease.htm) concerning lifting the dog ban, you will notice that the BLM intends to monitor the social impact of hiking dogs. The BLM is reporting that if resource or social monitoring reveal unacceptable impacts from dogs, the ban could be re-established. The resource impact monitoring is not as much concern to me as is the "social monitoring." Dave Kiel told me the BLM intends to implement exit polls and questions about interactions with dogs will be a part of those exit polls.

In the two years that I engaged this issue, one thing became very clear to me. The opinions of people who use the resource count as much, if not more, than the actual physical impact they have on the resource. This means that if the voices of those who dislike dogs in the wilderness become "louder" than the voices of those who do like dogs in the wilderness, then we may lose again.

Your voice needs to be heard. If this issue interests you or affects you, I encourage you to write to the US BLM, 345 East Riverside Dr, St. George, UT 84790 and tell them how much you appreciate the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness being open to hiking dogs. Even if you do not hike in this resource, I encourage you to write. These are public lands. You have a right to recreate upon them and you have a reasonable expectation that public land managers will keep them open for this purpose. We are owners of our public lands, not customers.

I would also encourage you to write a letter of thanks to two people that I believe have played a large part in reopening this wilderness to hiking dogs. They are Becky Hammond (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument manager) and Dave Kiel (recreation manager, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument). You can reach them both at 345 East Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790.

Hiking with a dog in the wilderness is a very special thing. A lot of folks may view it as bringing a family mutt to romp in the outdoors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Backpacking dogs enjoy the experience as much as their human companions. And while there, as you watch your dog traverse the wilderness, you can just imagine other great wilderness adventures where dogs took part - images of John Muir and Stickeen, his faithful wilderness companion ; images of sled dogs on the Iditarod; images of the dogs that accompanied Lewis and Clark…

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All Authors Of This Article: | Dan Sands |
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