UTAH — Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) all aim to protect habitat and offer the public a place to recreate in nature. While public access is important, protecting habitat and wildlife use takes precedence. For this year, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is implementing two changes to camping at Hardware Wildlife Management Area. The two changes will limit camping to five locations and establish a camping season.
The 14,000-acre WMA located at the top of Blacksmith Fork Canyon east of Hyrum is a critical winter habitat for elk and other big game animals in the area. The changes are being made due to the heavy winter snowfall and the subsequent melting that will make the area habitat, which is at around 5200 feet, wet and easily damaged.
“While we would like to provide recreational opportunities on our WMAs, these properties were purchased for the benefit of wildlife and wildlife habitat,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Hardware WMA Manager BradHunt said.
“These properties are public land, but they are not multiple use like many other state- and federally-owned properties. Restricting camping until the areas dry out — and limiting camping to the established camping areas and time frames — should allow visitors to have a good time camping without damaging the habitat the WMA was purchased to protect.”
Camping will be limited to the Wapiti, Baxter-Rock Creek, Baxter-Rock Creek Livestock and Hardware Flats Camp. The fifth area will pertain to hunting season, where camp areas will be limited to four locations along Route 101.
Wapiti, Baxter-Rock Creek and Baxter-Rock Creek Livestock camp areas will open May 26, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The Hardware Flats Camp Area and SR-101 will not open till August 1.
“It takes time for habitat to dry to the point that vehicles can travel on it without leaving ruts and damaging the vegetation,” Hunt said. “Waiting until Memorial Day weekend to start the camping season on three of the camp areas will give the ground a chance to dry out so it isn’t as susceptible to damage. The fourth major camp area – Hardware Flats – is higher in elevation and takes even longer to dry out, which is why the camping season there doesn’t start until Aug. 1.”