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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between ACECs and other designations (like WSAs)?

ACECs differ from other special designations, such as Wilderness Study Areas, in that designation by itself does not automatically prohibit or restrict other uses in the area. While WSAs are managed to a “non-impairment” standard that excludes surface disturbing activities and permanent structures that would diminish the areas’ natural character, the management of ACECs is focused on the resource or natural hazard of concern. This varies considerably from area to area, and in some cases may involve surface disturbing actions. 

Who designates ACEC?

ACECs are an administrative designation made by the BLM through a land use plan. It is unique to BLM in that no other agency uses this form of designation. Private lands and lands administered by other agencies may be located within the boundaries of ACECs, but are not subject to the prescribed management of the ACEC.

Why does BLM designate ACECs?

Congress mandated the designation of ACECs through the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to manage areas containing truly unique and significant resource values.

Why are ACECs an important management tool?

ACEC designations highlight significant resources or hazards where special management measures are needed to prevent irreparable damage. The ACEC designation enables land managers to specifically address the relevant and important value or hazard and formulate a prescription to manage it.

An example of where ACEC designation was applied to protect significant resources is the Red Bluff ACEC in southwestern Utah. This is the only location in North America where the endangered dwarf bear-claw poppy occurs. The prescription for this ACEC protects the erodible saline soils at risk from extensive off-road use and human encroachment from urban areas. At the same time, it allows for trail designation to accommodate one of the most popular forms of recreation here, mountain biking.

Are there existing ACECs in Utah?

Yes. Most of the BLM field offices in Utah manage designated ACECs. See a list of current ACECs at Utah BLM’s website here.

What can or cannot occur in an ACEC?

Since the BLM prescribes special management measures that are specific to the values for which the ACEC is designated, what can and cannot occur in different ACECs may vary dramatically.

For example, the Little Creek Mountain ACEC in southwestern Utah was designated to protect Anasazi structural and rock art sites. The specific prescription increases surveillance and site steward programs to deter vandalism. It also allows for identification of sites for educational, research, and conservation programs. Cultural resource inventories are required for surface disturbing activities to prevent damage to historic resources. However, the ACEC is still open to many other uses that will not necessarily cause irreparable damage to the cultural resources. Motorized travel is allowed on existing roads and trails, and oil and gas leasing and development can occur during non-winter months (the area is crucial deer winter range).

However, this prescription is much different than the prescription made for the Canaan Mountain ACEC that was designated to protect some of the most spectacular scenic values in Washington County (including the Vermillion Cliffs). The peaks and cliffs form the gateway to Zion National Park and serve as a destination point for an increasing number of recreationists. The area is closed to mountain bike and motorized use, while oil and gas leasing is allowed under “no surface occupancy.” The prescription protects the incredible scenic values of the area, while still allowing for livestock grazing and popular uses such camping, hunting, hiking and other forms of non-motorized recreation.

Who can nominate an ACEC?

Any individual or organization inside or outside the BLM can nominate ACECs.

How can the public become involved in ACEC nominations and determinations?

The public can become involved in the ACEC process in the following ways:

  1. Submitting nominations for ACECs (preferably during the public scoping period for ongoing planning efforts).
  2. Submitting information on why nominated ACECs do or do not meet relevance and importance criteria.
  3. Submitting comments on the draft environmental impact statement.

How do you nominate an ACEC?

Nominations can be submitted at anytime and are solicited as part of the scoping process during development of a land use plan. Nominations of ACECs should address why the proponent believes that the nominated area meets the relevance and importance requirements defined in the Federal Regulations in 43 CFR 1610.7-2.

To nominate an ACEC contact your local field office.

How does BLM evaluate an ACEC nomination?

Nominations for ACECs must stand the test of relevance and importance before they are evaluated for ACEC designation. To make this determination, a BLM interdisciplinary team uses information from both internal and external sources including other federal agencies, state and local government, conservation groups, research institutions, expert opinions, etc. Nominated areas meeting relevance and importance criteria become proposed ACECs, and are considered in the array of Resource Management Plan (RMP) alternatives. Each proposed ACEC is considered for designation in at least one of the management alternatives. The need for special management attention and the effects of applying such management are assessed in the environmental analysis. Click here to view a flowchart of the ACEC Process.

Where can I find out about current Utah planning efforts and what ACECs have been proposed?

Currently the Cedar City Field Office and the Beaver Dam and Red Cliffs national Conservation Areas are undergoing plan revisions or amendments. The planning web sites can be reached here.