The presently proposed Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 is a step backward for protecting the San Rafael Swell. Many Utahns and conservationists agree.

I’ve made dozens of memorable trips to the spectacular San Rafael Swell region, including The Chute of Muddy Creek and Little Wild Horse Canyon. I’m passionate about this extraordinary area and its spectacular vistas and solitude. I’ve always thought I’d get involved if the day came when the Swell needed to be defended. That day has arrived.

Some of the more glaring shortcomings of the bill that make it a step backward for protecting the fragile uniqueness of the Swell are: It fails to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of irreplaceable wilderness quality lands. It undermines a legal settlement reached by conservationists and off-road advocates and makes off-road vehicle impacts worse. It lacks protections for the San Rafael Badlands, Muddy Creek and underprotects Labyrinth Canyon. And it gives the state of Utah control, including development control, of public lands that are owned by all Americans.

An S.O.S. is a distress signal for help, and the San Rafael Swell needs our help.

Peter Gatch, Park City