Feds to open Utah’s national parks to ATVs

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2019/09/28/feds-open-utahs-national/

The roar of ATVs could be coming to a Utah national park backcountry road near you under a major policy shift initiated by the National Park Service without public input.

Across the country, off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs are generally barred from national parks. For Utah’s famed parks, however, that all changes starting Nov. 1, when these vehicles may be allowed on both main access roads and back roads like Canyonlands National Park’s White Rim and Arches’ entry points from Salt Valley and Willow Springs.

The move was ordered Tuesday by the the National Park Service’s acting regional director, Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, who directed a memo to Utah park superintendents instructing them to align their regulations with Utah law, which allows off-road vehicles to travel state and county roads as long as they are equipped with standard safety equipment and are registered and insured.

“This alignment with state law isn’t carte blanche to take their ATVs off road,” said agency spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo. “If people [drive] off road, they will be cited. Protection of these resources is paramount.”

Under the rule change, off-highway vehicles could roam Canyonlands’ Maze District and Arches’ Klondike Buffs — as long as they remain on designated routes. In general, ATVs would be allowed to travel roads that are open to trucks and cars.

The directive, which applies only to Utah parks, triggered an immediate backlash from conservation groups, which predicted the move will result in a “management nightmare” for parks already struggling with traffic jams and parking clutter.

Now the park service is inviting a whole new category of vehicle onto park roads, establishing new uses that will disrupt wildlife and other visitors’ enjoyment, warned Kristen Brengel, the National Parks Conservation Association’s vice president of government affairs.

“These are national parks that have incredible resources, cultural resources, natural resources, and so by allowing these vehicles that are tailored to go anywhere, you’re potentially putting these resources at risk,” Brengel said. “The park service should be going through a public process, doing an analysis and making sure they can adequately protect the park and its resources and visitors. They haven’t done that.”

Brengel said her group is conferring with its attorneys to consider its options to block the rule change.

Setting the stage for this change in policy was SB181 enacted by Utah lawmakers in 2008, authorizing any “street-legal” vehicle on all state and county roads. For the past 11 years, the National Park Service has pushed back, closing park roads to these recreational vehicles under the rationale that it is too easy to drive them illegally off the roads.

“The addition of off-road vehicle traffic on park roads will inevitably result in injury and damage to park resources. These specialized vehicles are designed, produced and marketed for the purpose of off-road travel, and they are uniquely capable of easily leaving the road and traveling cross country,” states a 2008 park service memo explaining why Arches and Canyonlands should remain off-limits to ATVs. “No reasonable level of law enforcement presence would be sufficient to prevent ATV and OHV use off roads. Park rangers will have no ability to pursue and apprehend vehicle users off road without adding to the damage they cause to park resources.”

When Utah enacted SB181, all-terrain vehicles, which ride like a four-wheeled motorcycle, were the most used off-road vehicle. UTVs, or so-called utility terrain vehicles, equipped with side-by-side bucket seats, steering wheels, robust suspension and roll cages, have since eclipsed ATVs in popularity, as well as their ability to create impacts. They can be operated at higher speeds and can be so loud that occupants wear ear protection.

Jenkins, who served most recently as the superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park, issued the directive after off-highway groups and Utah lawmakers led by Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, pressured the Interior Department to lift the prohibition.

In a Sept. 2 letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Lyman wrote that he is "offended" that the park service discriminates against off-highway vehicle owners, noting than nearly all of Utah's national parks are accessed from state and county roads.

“The owners of street-legal OHVs comply with numerous laws and regulations to be given the privilege to drive on a wide range of state and county roads,” he wrote in the letter, signed by 13 other Utah lawmakers. “They also contribute to the maintenance of the state highway system through gasoline taxes and registration fees.”

Lyman is the former San Juan County commissioner who became a political celebrity after organizing an off-road vehicle protest ride though Recapture Canyon, which resulted in misdemeanor convictions, 10 days in jail and a reputation as a public lands warrior.

Adding pressure were UTV Utah and Utah OHV Advocates. According to the groups, Utah is home to 202,000 registered OHVs, or off-highway vehicles, the broad category that includes UTVs and ATVs.

“Despite being one of the largest groups of public land users, and even though the economic benefit of our community dwarfs most other recreational users combined, we often find ourselves discriminated against by decision-makers that head public land agencies,” the groups’ presidents, Bud Bruening and Brett Stewart, wrote in a joint July 29 letter to Bernhardt. “In Utah, this discrimination is particularly acute when it comes to the National Park Service.”

Many southern Utah county commissioners had lobbied for this change in the hopes of widening riders’ options for roaming Utah’s public lands. Counties maintain many of these back roads, according to Newell Harward, a Wayne County commissioner who welcomed the rule change.

“We are happy with it,” said Harward, whose county includes Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. “It will increase some tourism issues with folks who want to use some of these roads with street-legal UTVs. I don’t know the difference between those and small Jeeps [which had always been allowed]. I’m hoping people will pay attention to the laws and stay on roads. If they don’t, then this is going to get backed up.”

Glen Canyon had already loosed its rules a few years ago, when it developed a new travel plan allowing ATVs on roads around Circle Cliffs. But that was only after a public process, an environmental review and a final decision that has yet to be formally implemented, according to Neal Clark, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

“UTVs are built for one reason, which is off-road use. That is the purpose for the existence of these machines,” Clark said. “They’re loud and obnoxious and because of that they’re completely contrary to the reasons that people travel from across the globe and across the country to visit national parks.”
 

Mike W.

Active member
UTVs can be registered for on street use in Utah. Allowing them on paved roads in parks..that's what this is doing is no different than allowing people to go to the grocery using a UTV..
 
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Regcabguy

Expedition Leader
Thumbs down. Scooters next like the madness here in San Diego.
I can't believe the NPS would do that unless the companies greased some palms.
 

F350joe

Adventurer
UTVs can be registered for on street use in Utah. Allowing them on paved roads in parks..that's what this is doing is no different than allowing people to go to the grocery using a UTV..
That’s not nearly as fun as imagining them blasting through the Narrows knocking people out of their Crocs.
 

F350joe

Adventurer
Thumbs down. Scooters next like the madness here in San Diego.
I can't believe the NPS would do that unless the companies greased some palms.
It is madness. We don’t have them in Encinitas, yet, but I’m blown away every time I go into San Diego. The type of people that just leave it in the sidewalk when they are done are probably not the type of people to pack anything out.
 

Pilat

Tossing ewoks on Titan
I take you guys are talking about scooters (electric) like these:

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And not scooters like these:

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Regcabguy

Expedition Leader
It is madness. We don’t have them in Encinitas, yet, but I’m blown away every time I go into San Diego. The type of people that just leave it in the sidewalk when they are done are probably not the type of people to pack anything out.
Yeah,Del Mar north know better. I don't now about O'Side. The city council here is Democratically controlled with a Republican mayor. Go figure.
 

Mike W.

Active member
As I read it, it allows them to be used on the same roads that cars, trucks and jeeps are used on now, in Utah they are street legal just like a car truck or jeep. I don't have a problem with it.
They are, the tittle of the article is misleading or common in modern reporting. I can't remember seeing a licensed ATV on the road ever. UTVs are common but not overwhelming..Utah drivers are possibly the worse drivers in the world, mixed with snowbirds in St.George the bigger your daily driver the better..
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
They are, the tittle of the article is misleading or common in modern reporting. I can't remember seeing a licensed ATV on the road ever. UTVs are common but not overwhelming..Utah drivers are possibly the worse drivers in the world, mixed with snowbirds in St.George the bigger your daily driver the better..
The article probably does gloss over details. I can't speak with absolute authority but what I think is the case is that Utah allows ATVs and UTVs that meet certain criteria to get a license plate and registration similar to any other street-legal motorcycle.

Utah has a list of requirements like reflectors, lights, horn, muffler, blinkers, speedometer, windshield and they have to carry insurance as well. So it would be those I presume to be the OHVs being discussed, not just any random OHV.

I've experienced my share of hooligans and renters in UTVs and personally don't have a particularly high regard for them but if a street-legal dirt bike is OK on White Rim then I see the logical argument that a street-legal UTVs should also.

There are some restrictions to the types of highways upon which and places they can be operated, so it's not a blank check to operate them in place of a motor vehicle. But maybe someone from Utah can provide details on street and highways where they are or aren't allowed.
 
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highwest

New member
I live in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. People are often driving their licensed UTVs in the neighborhood and to the grocery store. It’s silly, but do what you want.

I can’t imagine UTVs on the dirt roads in the Canyonlands - their speed and mobility may drastically increase the day-use traffic in permitted areas that typically only saw the campers that pulled the permit - the Dollhouse of The Maze comes to mind. These are sensitive areas that may suffer from increased traffic.
 
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