Off Road Vehicles Archives - Page 10 of 11


  • December 2nd, 2010

    Yesterday, we released our new “2010 Report Card:  Assessing Utah BLM’s Management of Off-Road Vehicles.”  Off-road vehicle (ORV) use on Utah’s public lands is an enormously controversial public lands issue, and ORV-caused damage – erosion, water pollution, noise, air-borne dust, crushed and looted archaeological sites — continues to increase.  Based upon BLM’s failure to comply with federal law and protect natural and historical resources from ORVs, we had to give BLM failing and very low grades for most categories.  Those of us who love Utah’s wild country are fed up with the damage, and it’s way past time for BLM to fix this mess.

    A growing body of scientific research conducted by federal agencies, universities, and independent scientists that conclude that ORV use is damaging to a variety of natural resources and Utah’s wealth of archaeological resources.  (You don’t really need scientists to tell you this – many of us have seen the damage first hand on one of our trips to the desert.)

    In particular, research demonstrates that ORV use near archaeological structures, rock art and other artifacts increases the risk of vandalism and looting of Utah’s irreplaceable archaeological treasures.

    Scientific research also shows that ORV use in Utah’s streams and waterways is especially harmful.  These areas (referred to as “riparian areas” by the BLM) make up just 1 % of Utah’s public lands, yet support over 80% of wildlife species.  ORV use increases sedimentation, destroys healthy stream banks and vegetation, increases water temperatures and lowers the water table, threatening fish and other stream life,  plants and valuable wildlife habitat.

    In addition, federal agency research concludes that ORV use exacerbates the effects of climate change on the Colorado Plateau by eroding soils and contributing to the large dust storms that blanket Colorado’s mountains with dust resulting in earlier and faster snow melt, degrading water supplies, and spreading invasive weeds that increase the risk of wildfires.

    Our 2010 Report Card assesses BLM’s ORV plans, completed in 2008, for 11 million acres in eastern and southern Utah.  These plans put an end to the free-for-all ORV management of the past decades – a step in the right direction.

    However, rather than comply with federal law that requires BLM to protect the air, water, archaeological sites, scenic values, and ecology of our public lands, and to “minimize” the impacts of ORV use on these resources and the landscape, the agency designated a dense network of 20,000 miles of ORV routes – enough to drive between New York City and Los Angeles seven times!

    And, unfortunately, these ORV plans allow ORV use in many of the most sensitive areas, including in streambeds and wildlife habitat, across archaeological sites, and in roadless areas.  The 2008 plans close only 15% of the lands to ORV use, even though BLM’s own survey data shows that less than 10% of visitors to public lands use ORVs while 90% of visitors enjoy recreational pursuits other than ORVing on Utah’s public lands.

    BLM has the authority to fix these plans, and we propose a solution that would provide immediate protection for the most sensitive areas and resources:  BLM should close routes located in scarce desert streams, in areas known to have dense concentrations of archaeological sites, and in roadless areas.  This would entail closing around 3,000 miles of route, leaving 17,000 miles of route available for ORV use.  This easy solution would help restore a sense of balance to the public lands, and protect a few places from the long-term damages caused by ORV use.

    Please see the Utah Wilderness News for press coverage on the ORV Report Card release.

  • December 2nd, 2010

    SUWA issues the BLM a Report Card on ORV management

    Video Courtesy of KSL.com

    “Zach Frankel with the Utah Rivers Council said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with ATV recreation. The issue with the BLM is how they are managed.’

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), the Utah Rivers Council and the Utah Chapter Sierra Club give the BLM poor marks for protecting the environment and cultural resources from ORV damage.  Read the full ORV Report Card

    Liz Thomas with SUWA said, ‘They haven’t taken the necessary steps to protect these resources from the know damages that occur from off-road vehicle use.'”  Read more – KSL.com

    Arch Canyon remains an example of poor ORV management

    “SUWA’s report card for the BLM’s management of off-roaders gives the agency a ‘D’ in protecting the environment, an ‘F’ in appreciating history and other cultures, but a ‘B’ for improving on the freewheeling access the group says existed before the 2008 travel plans.

    SUWA already is suing the government over those plans, which designated about 20,000 miles of travel routes stretching from the Four Corners to Richfield to Flaming Gorge. Some of those dirt trails — about 3,000 miles — are in stream bottoms, archaeological sites or large, roadless areas.

    ‘Closing less than 15 percent [of the trails] clearly would not preclude off-road vehicle use in southern Utah,’ said Thomas, the SUWA attorney.'”  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune

    But off-roaders say riding responsibly is good enough

    “The SUWA report sites the BLM allows off-roading on archaeological sites where vandalism and looting occurs. They also say they did not conduct environmental impact studies as required by law and failed to protect streams, fish and wildlife habitats.

    ‘Off road vehicle use on public lands is probably the most controversial and damaging uses and it’s growing,’ said Liz Thomas, who is an attorney that works with SUWA.”  Read more – Fox13 News

    Other coverage: Associated Press

    Read the full ORV Report Card

  • November 29th, 2010
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    Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
    photo by Ray Bloxham

    The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA) encompasses a significant portion of Utah’s redrock country in southern Utah. Authorized in 1972 and managed by the National Park Service (NPS), it covers 1.25 million acres of remote and wild canyon country. This magnificent landscape is surrounded by equally impressive lands in Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks, the Vermilion Cliffs and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, BLM-managed wilderness-quality lands, and the Navajo Nation. NPS is currently drafting an off-road vehicle (ORV) plan for the GCNRA. You can help preserve some of southern Utah’s most beautiful wildlands from the long-term scars and impacts of ORV use by submitting comments on the plan by November 30.

    The GCNRA was designated to “. . . preserve the scenic, scientific, and historic features contributing to the pubic enjoyment of the area . . .” in addition to providing for the recreational use and enjoyment of Lake Powell and the adjacent lands. Although the primary feature of the GCNRA is Lake Powell, the remaining 87% is undeveloped lands, containing pre-historic cultural sites, wildlife habitat, and outstanding opportunities for a pure wilderness experience. NPS has recommended nearly one-half of the GCNRA for wilderness designation. These lands must be protected from ORV impacts.

    Currently, NPS allows street legal ATVs  to drive on all dirt routes in the GCNRA (more than 300 miles), even though Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks prohibit the use of ATVs within the parks. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument restricts them to a few routes. In addition, some of the routes NPS proposes for ATV and other motor vehicle use in the GCNRA lead to trails closed to public and/or ATV use in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in Canyonlands National Park, and to lands proposed for wilderness.

    Please urge the Superintendent of the GCNRA to comply with the Executive Order No. 11644 governing ORV use in the GCNRA, which requires NPS to protect the natural resources and public lands from ORV impacts, to promote public safety of all users of those lands, and to minimize impacts to natural resources and the conflicts among various users of those lands and to allow ATV and other ORV use on routes and in “open areas” only after NPS has determined that such use will not affect the natural, aesthetic or scenic values of the areas in which the routes or “open” areas are located. Finally, please urge the Superintendent to protect the lands recommended for wilderness designation and the irreplaceable cultural resources of the GCNRA from the impacts of off-road vehicle use.

    Thank you for all you do!