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Mountain Bikers Help Save Original Red Bull Rampage Site

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As part of its ongoing work to support American energy independence and strengthen national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Utah State Office has posted a proposed list of parcels for an upcoming internet-based quarterly competitive oil and gas lease sale…

In addition, after conducting environmental review and in response to substantial feedback from the public, local and state government, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, BLM-Utah has deferred offering three Washington County parcels totaling 4,730 acres.

—BLM Press Release

Ah, the sweet, sweet music of a government press release… Can anyone deny the thrilling, near-electric charge created by that marriage of words? Who could resist the sheer lyric beauty of nouns and verbs coming together in a paragraph, then slumping their shoulders and muttering, “Aw, screw it.” before dissolving into a pile of what-the-f*ck-ness?

Well, if the silver-tongued folks who penned that press-release lost you within the first couple sentences, here’s what they were actually trying to say: The BLM has decided not to sell off the rights to drill for oil and gas on the old Red Bull Rampage site. Why? Because that government agency received a metric crap ton of comments from mountain bikers, protesting the proposed drilling—and many of those comments came from Pinkbike readers.

WAIT, WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Earlier this year, we reported that the United States Bureau of Land Management (or “BLM”) was considering selling two oil and gas leases on three parcels totaling 4,730 acres in and around Virgin, Utah. That acreage included the original Red Bull Rampage site. What's more, two of the parcels sit just a mile and a half away from Zion National Park. While the Red Bull Rampage event has moved on from the original location, daring souls still ride that first venue as well as area trails such as Flying Monkey. From a historical perspective, it'd be a shame to see the site of so many mountain biking "firsts" littered with new access roads, drilling platforms and drilling rigs. From an environmental perspective, the drilling posed a real risk to the drinking water of the local community. And, finally, there's the more aesthetic issue of dumping a giant dog turd on the doorstep of one of North America's most beautiful locales. On average, 4.3 million people visit Zion each year, bringing more than $270 million and 2,700 jobs to the local economy.
The Sierra Club's AddUp Manager, Ryan Dunfee, organized two petition drives opposing the leases a few months back. At the time, I asked him why any of this actually mattered in the greater scheme of things. We are all, after all, consumers of energy...much of it derived from fossil fuels. Why should anyone oppose drilling in this instance? This is how Dunfee, an avid rider and a former editor at Teton Gravity Research, put it. "The lease is near the entrance to Zion National Park, and some of the proposed area for leasing includes the existing Flying Monkey DH trail as well as the original Red Bull Rampage venue, which played host to feats that blew the doors off what we thought was possible to do on two wheels, and raised the profile of the sport as a whole to a level not seen in years," said Dunfee.
Ryan Dunfee in Moab Photo by Rob Collier
Sierra Club Addup Community Manager, Ryan Dunfee, in Moab, Utah. Photo courtesy of Rob Collier.
"We’re not a sport that puts a lot of a value on our history," he continued, "but way more than a museum, a place like this actually lets you be a part of that incredible history. Riders from all over make the trip down to Virgin to ride the old venue themselves and see if they can hack it, and I think that’s an incredible thing to be able to do, and part of what makes public lands in this country so rad."Okay, that was then. Let's get back to the now....

BLM REVERSES DIRECTIONThe BLM recently announced (that quotation at the top of the page) that they were withdrawing the parcels in question from the pool of lands open to drilling.A BLM spokesperson mentioned that his agency received in excess of 40,000 comments about the potential drilling on these three parcels that sit on Zion National Park’s doorstep, in Virgin, Utah. In other words, a whole lot of people got riled up.“Yeah, it’s actually a bit unusual,” says Ryan Dunfee. “The BLM doesn’t usually reveal how many people sent in comments in a case like this.”But then again… 40,000 people chiming in? That’s a lot of people....“Well, that part is a little weird,” says Dunfee. “Because I actually submitted more than 50,000 comments between the two campaigns that we sponsored, and I'm sure other organizations and citizens submitted their own comments.... But numbers aside, it’s a victory.”
Dunfee notes that comments and petitions, naturally, weren’t the only forms of feedback that likely influenced the BLM. “There was also a tremendous of effort put out by people working behind the scenes—locals living in Zion and St. George—who were making their case,” says Dunfee.But Dunfee is quick to point out that mountain bikers—and Pinkbike readers in particular—played a real role in the decision to keep the old Rampage site free of oil derricks and the like. “Mountain bikers in that campaign, submitted 37,825 comments. And really the majority of those comments—as far as I can tell—came from Pinkbike," says Dunfee. "It was a super impressive amount of comments from the bike community.”Impressive, indeed. In this age of polar bears eating polar bears and people gouging one another's eyes out over a perceived lack of national pride (okay, maybe that's more of a thing in my country than yours...), it's heartening to see that we can make a difference. A story gets posted on Pinkbike. Readers give a damn. They speak up. Things change for the better. So, while I realize that our readership is split over whether or not drilling on the old Rampage site was a good or bad thing, I doff my hat to everyone who wrote in and voiced their opinions.Thank you.