Off Road Vehicles - Page 3 of 12


  • November 5th, 2019

    As you no doubt have heard, the National Park Service (NPS) recently abandoned a proposal to allow certain off-road vehicles in Utah’s national parks and monuments.

    That proposal provoked enough public outrage to force the Trump administration to reverse course and keep the longtime closure of park roads to off-road vehicles. And that reversal came in part because SUWA members like you spoke out against sacrificing our national parks to ATVs and UTVs.

    But the controversy also raises a broader question: where do off-road vehicles belong on our public lands?

    The time for answering that question is now before us. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently in the midst of a planning process that will result in 13 new travel management plans covering more than six million acres of BLM-managed lands in eastern and southern Utah.

    These plans—to be completed over the next eight years—will determine where motorized vehicles are allowed in some of Utah’s most stunning and remote wild lands, such as the Dirty Devil, San Rafael Swell, and Labyrinth Canyon.

    And in the coming months and years, we’re going to again need SUWA members like you to speak out against turning our public lands into off-road vehicle playgrounds.

    The new travel plans are the result of SUWA and its conservation partners’ litigation of six travel plans released at the end of the George W. Bush administration.

    Those plans smothered Utah’s public lands with a dense spider web of thousands of miles of motorized routes, prioritizing off-road vehicles at the expense of Utah’s cultural and natural resources. Routes designated in the these plans cross directly through cultural sites considered sacred by Native Americans and bisect wildlife habitat valued by Utah’s hunters and non-hunters alike. The Bush-era plans also exacerbated conflict with non-motorized public lands users.

    But in 2013, the federal courts found that those Bush-era travel plans violated the law by failing to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources. Under the ensuing settlement agreement between the BLM, conservation organizations and off-road vehicle groups, the BLM is required to rewrite travel plans with more than motorized users in mind.

    Which brings us to this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

    At SUWA, we view the forthcoming travel plans as an opportunity to develop reasonable, manageable and forward-thinking blueprints that ensure public access while preserving the backcountry and minimizing damage.

    This new planning process gives the BLM a second chance to get things right, ensuring access to trailheads, scenic overlooks and recreation opportunities while protecting the very reason people want to drive to such remote places in the first place: to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Utah’s unparalleled public lands.

    Much has changed in the decade since the BLM released its flawed, Bush-era travel plans. Visitation to Utah has skyrocketed—fueled by the State of Utah’s advertising and the rise of social media—and shows no sign of diminishing. More people are seeking out new types of recreation as technology changes: today’s off-road vehicles are designed to go more places faster than ever before. We are also grappling with a climate crisis, bringing new challenges to Utah’s public land managers.

    But one thing hasn’t changed in the last decade: SUWA is still here, fighting every day to protect Utah wilderness and to preserve the redrock for generations to come.

    We’ll be telling you more about the BLM’s travel planning process in the coming months, and once again it is your voice that will make the difference. Rather than viewing this process as a burden, the BLM should take advantage of this opportunity to protect our shared heritage and craft visionary plans that will endure for years to come.

    Utah’s wild places deserve no less.

  • October 10th, 2019

    From Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks to Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, and Cedar Breaks national monuments, Utah is home to some of the most spectacular and beloved jewels of the National Park System. But these world-renowned landscapes are now threatened by a shortsighted directive from the Trump administration to open all park roads (both paved and unpaved) to off-road vehicles, including ATVs and UTVs.

    As the term “off-road vehicle” clearly implies, these machines are designed specifically to travel off-road and beyond the reach of standard passenger vehicles into rugged backcountry terrain. Even on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, where such vehicles already have tens of thousands of routes open to their use, managing illegal off-road use is a nightmare for agency officials.

    The National Park Service, which is dedicated to “conserving unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System,” is ill-equipped to handle the problems that will inevitably arise.

    Click here to oppose the terrible precedent of allowing off-road vehicles in Utah’s cherished national parks.

    The Trump administration wants to open all National Park Service roads in Utah to off-road vehicles, including UTVs like the ones pictured above. Photo: iStock.com/marekuliasz

    If the Trump administration has its way, natural and cultural resources will be put at risk from irresponsible and illegal off-road vehicle use on park roads, and the silence and unspoiled views in places like the White Rim and Maze District of Canyonlands National Park and Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park will be broken by the invasive engine noise and dust clouds generated by these incompatible machines.

    If that’s not bad enough, the administration is attempting to force off-road vehicle use into Utah’s national parks and national monuments with no analysis of impacts and no public input. This is remarkable given the Park Service’s prior determination that off-road vehicles pose “a significant risk to park resources and values which cannot be appropriately mitigated,” and their use is “not consistent with the protection of the parks and monuments.” The agency even acknowledged that “[n]o reasonable level of law enforcement presence would be sufficient to prevent . . . use off roads.”

    Take Action: Please write the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and tell him not to make this reckless decision that could irreversibly damage some of America’s most remarkable national parks and monuments.

  • August 1st, 2019

    BLM’s “wild west” mentality will deface Utah landscape

    For Immediate Release

    Contact:
    Laura Peterson, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-236-3762
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 646-823-4518
    Phil Hanceford, The Wilderness Society, 303-225-4636

    Salt Lake City, UT (August 1, 2019) – Three conservation organizations filed suit today in federal district court in Utah challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to open 5,400 acres of federal public lands around Utah’s Factory Butte to unrestricted cross-country motorized use.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society filed the lawsuit asking the court to reverse the BLM’s unlawful decision and direct that the closure be reinstated.

    The BLM’s May 22, 2019 decision reversed a closure order that had been in place for more than twelve years. The agency gave no prior notice or opportunity for public input.  Its reversal just before Memorial Day weekend allowed vehicles to immediately mar this remarkable landscape.

    “It was irresponsible and anti-democratic for BLM to secretly open up this area and subject its ecosystem to destruction,” said Sharon Buccino, senior director for Lands at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The agency’s earlier move to close this area was a sound decision, based on science and extensive public input. BLM has to balance different uses of our public lands, but the ring around Factory Butte is no place for off road vehicles, which damage the soil and threaten endangered species.”

    “The BLM’s decision to allow destructive, unregulated cross-country motorized use to overrun the remarkable public lands surrounding Factory Butte – one of Utah’s most well-known landmarks – is outrageous,” said Laura Peterson, attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Though it refused to provide the public with any advance notice of its decision, the BLM consulted ahead of time with local counties and even shared its press release and promotional materials.  That’s clearly not the way our federal public lands are supposed to be managed.”

    The BLM did not explain its reasoning or provide an environmental analysis for its decision. Instead, BLM concocted a rationale days after its decision to lift the closure when BLM Richfield field officer manager Joelle McCarthy wrote a brief “Memo to File” on May 24, 2019. This memo was not made available to the public until May 28, 2019.

    “Sneaking this plan out without public input shows that the BLM knew the public would be outraged by the decision to open treasured lands to unfettered motorized use that will permanently scar the land,” said Phil Hanceford, attorney for The Wilderness Society. “Anyone who has traveled through this area just outside of Capitol Reef National Park has marveled at the Factory Butte and the surrounding wilderness quality lands.  The BLM’s actions are unacceptable and we believe the courts will agree.”

    BLM’s decision to reverse a 2006 closure of the area to ORV use will allow unrestricted motorized travel throughout two “play areas” totaling a combined 5,400 acres.

    The 2006 closure followed a petition Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed with the BLM outlining the devastating effects of unmanaged cross-country travel by ORVs in this area. The BLM concluded that closure was necessary to protect federally-listed cactus species, including the endangered Wright fishhook from mortality due to cross-country ORV travel.  SUWA has monitored the Factory Butte ORV closure area since 2006 and has documented ongoing and intentional ORV violations and associated damage to natural resources.

    Photographs of the remarkable Factory Butte area are available on SUWA’s website, along with a timeline of OHV use at Factory Butte and a point-by-point refutation of BLM’s misleading arguments about why it lifted the closure on cross-country motorized use.

    A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

  • May 31st, 2019

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Legal Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-428-3981 steve@suwa.org

    Salt Lake City, UT (May 31, 2019) – This weekend is the second since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued its controversial decision to authorize destructive cross-country off-road vehicle (ORV) use across 5,400 acres of public lands ringing Factory Butte in southern Utah. The BLM’s decision reverses a 13-year long closure order that prohibited such activity.

    Although the BLM lifted the closure ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, it didn’t set forth its rationale for doing so until Richfield field office manager Joelle McCarthy wrote a brief “memo to file” two days later, on May 24.

    The BLM didn’t make the memo available to the public until the following Tuesday, May 28.

    “We closely reviewed Manager McCarthy’s memo and found several misleading statements and significant omissions,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “Our annotated version of the memo – ‘The Truth about BLM’s Decision to Open Factory Butte to ORV Destruction’ – puts BLM’s wrong-headed decision to lift the closure around Factory Butte into context and makes clear that this was an outrageous reversal.”

    Click here to read the annotated BLM memo.