Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Park Service Gem or ORV Playground?

Glen Canyon NRA
Glen Canyon NRA. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

The National Park Service (NPS) is requesting comments on its draft Off-Road Vehicle Plan for the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA).   Your comments could help decide the fate of this remarkable landscape.

The GCNRA encompasses 1.25 million acres of land, and includes some of Utah’s most remote and exceptional public lands.  It is surrounded by the equally impressive landscapes of 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 drafting an off-road vehicle (ORV) plan and is proposing to legitimize and expand the existing, unauthorized ORV use within GCNRA.  The proposed plan includes the use of street legal ATVs on all paved routes, all types of ORVs on all dirt routes in the GCNRA (except in the Orange Cliffs), and ORV use on several additional designated ORV routes.  Conversely, the adjacent NPS-managed Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks prohibit the use of off-road vehicles (including street legal ATVs) within their boundaries.

Glen Canyon NRA
Glen Canyon NRA. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Congress designated the GCNRA in 1972 to “. . . preserve the scenic, scientific, and historic features contributing to public enjoyment of the area . . .” in addition to providing for “public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment” of Lake Powell and the adjacent lands.  Although the most visited feature of the GCNRA is Lake Powell, the remaining 87% of the GCNRA is largely undeveloped, containing pre-historic cultural sites, wildlife habitat, and outstanding opportunities for a pure wilderness experience.  In fact, NPS has recommended nearly one-half of the lands within the GCNRA for wilderness designation.

No Shortage of ORV Routes
There are thousands of miles of ORV routes on public lands managed by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service in southern Utah that provide ample motorized recreation opportunities.  Simply put, there is no compelling need to authorize ORV use in an area as magnificent as the GCNRA. 

Glen Canyon NRA
Glen Canyon NRA. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Before NPS can approve such use, it must comply with Executive Order 11644, signed by President Nixon in 1972.  The Order requires NPS to: protect the natural resources and public lands from ORV impacts; promote public safety of all users of those lands; and minimize impacts to natural resources and the conflicts among various users of those lands.  NPS can 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.

Not surprisingly, NPS’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement acknowledges that authorizing street legal ATV and off-road vehicle use in the GCNRA will have direct and indirect impacts on its sensitive resources, including soils, vegetation, wildlife and cultural resources.

Please tell NPS to preserve Glen Canyon’s scenic landscape and cultural history rather than invite unmanageable off-road vehicle use.

NPS requires that comments be submitted no later than March 4, 2014:

  • Via its web page
  • Or by U.S. Postal Service: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Attn: ORV Plan/Draft EIS, PO Box 1507, Page AZ  86040

Click here for suggested points to make in your comments.