A new rule enabling off-road car use in Utah’s national parks is set to take impact on November 1, regardless of the objections of some senior National Park Service employees in the state who say that the policy will harm fragile desert landscapes
The new policy will permit street-legal ORVs—also recognized as off-highway autos, or OHVs—on all roads, contradicting strict guidelines against such machines in most parks. The agency did not accept public comment on the transform, which was announced on September 24 by Acting Regional Director Palmer “Chip” Jenkins in a memo to park administrators. It has framed the transform as a move to align park policy with Utah state law, which makes it possible for registered ORVs on any road open to automobiles.
The autos should meet specific security requirements to qualify as “street-legal,” and should be registered and insured in order to enter the parks. Regions impacted by the rule contain Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon National Parks, along with Dinosaur National Monument, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Location.
The proclamation has been firmly rejected by lots of park customers and officials inside the National Park Service. Most notably, Superintendent for the Southeast Utah Group Kate Cannon is an outspoken opponent of ORVs in the parks. In previous years, Cannon has taken measures to ban their use in the regions she oversees, which incorporates Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.
Critics like Cannon cite the vehicles’ noise levels, capacity to kick up dust, and energy to stimulate erosion as causes to hold them out of National Parks.
In a memo shared by the Salt Lake Tribune, Cannon wrote, “The propensity of these autos to be driven off-road even exactly where prohibited is effectively established in investigation.” Park officials be concerned that rangers, currently stretched thin, will be unable to proficiently enforce maintaining the autos on the roads and off of the fragile desert landscape.
A study published in 2003 by the Wildlife Conservation Society supports lots of of Cannon’s and other critics’ claims. The paper, entitled All-Terrain Autos in the Adirondacks, reported on the influence of ATVs and ORVs in the wilderness of New York, as effectively as across the nation. According to the study, “all types of recreation have some impact on the nearby atmosphere, but ATVs represent an intense in the continuum of recreation use impacts.” Amongst these impacts are elevated soil compaction and erosion, as effectively as disruption to wildlife.
Supporters of the rule have pointed out that motorcycles, almost as noisy as ORVs, are currently permitted inside the parks. But ORVs will be in a position to access dirt roads in remote regions of the parks, such as Canyonlands’ White Rim Road, which most motorcyclists seldom frequent.
“Visitors have appreciated these parks for their regular solitude, quiet and undeveloped experiences,” Cannon wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Any use [of] ORVs will substantially alter the simple visitor practical experience that has endured for almost 100 years of recreation.”
Off-road enthusiasts have mainly welcomed the transform. In an interview, Ben Burr, policy director at the pro-ORV group Blue Ribbon Coalition/Share Trails, counters that “pretty much all guests to national parks arrive in a motorized car of some type,” and says that singling out ORV enthusiasts is unfair.
“Unlike other user groups who can and do negatively influence the parks, [off-highway vehicle] customers have been uniquely singled out and categorically banned,” stated Burr. “These parks are public lands. The roads that lead to and by way of them are also public sources. Our beginning point for any public policy that regulates public access to these public positive aspects ought to be a broad position of cooperativeness and inclusion.”
The on the web rhetoric about the rule transform has been heated, with commenters lamenting that the elevated access will facilitate “graffiti vandals” and “environmental destroyers” to access Utah’s most pristine wilderness. ORV riders have been named “demons riding recklessly,” litterers, and disrespectful.
But these generalizations, according to Burr, are far from universal truth. “As the OHV neighborhood grows, they are also maturing as a user group,” he stated. “There is a developing quantity of non-earnings, riding clubs, and other organizations that can be mobilized to assist educate customers and self-police OHV customers about the finest strategies to respect these sources.”
Meanwhile, advocates continue to push back against the access rule. Elected officials in Grand County, which incorporates Moab, passed a resolution earlier this month imploring the Park Service to reconsider the directive. The rule is set to go into impact on November 1.