An open letter to Acting Regional Director of National Park Service
Dear Acting Regional Director Chip Jenkins,
I am writing to inform you that changing long-standing regulations to permit ATV and UTV use within Utah’s National Parks is a grave mistake. This regulatory change should be withdrawn. Why?
Public input was not solicited before making this change. An issue as controversial as this clearly merits open discussion and public input. Launching a controversial change without public discussion and input erodes public confidence in the National Park Service’s administration of public lands.
Utah’s permissive regulations on ATV and UTV use on state and county roads is extremely controversial. Here in Moab, those regulations are supported by businesses that benefit from the rapid expansion in the use and rental of those vehicles but despised by the majority of residents, primarily because those vehicles are flooding the town with noise, exhaust, and, occasionally, disrespectful automotive behavior.
A second problem witnessed on BLM wildlands around Moab is that a few, no doubt a minority, of ATV/UTV recreationists drive off designated trails, causing damage to wildlife habitat and landscape values.
Several friends whose work brings them in daily contact with tourists have reported that since ATV/UTV use became popular here tourists frequently say that although they love the area and have been visiting regularly for years they will never come to Moab again because of the noise and poor behavior of ATV/UTV drivers.
Furthermore, a large number of longtime residents of Moab have pulled up stakes, sold houses, and moved away while explicitly blaming ATV/UTV noise and obnoxious behavior.
I recognize that ATV/UTV use on public lands, when properly regulated, has the very positive benefit of getting people out into natural landscapes. Many ATV/UTV drivers are respectful of townsfolks’ desire to live free from roaring engine noise. Unfortunately, there are enough ATV/UTV drivers who appear to consider our town merely as a backdrop for their rip-roaring automotive adventures and our surrounding, relatively natural public lands as a place to crush vegetation and leave off-road tracks.
Abusive ATV/UTV users are certainly a small minority. But they have been a consistent problem here for years. Moab is constrained from enacting local regulations to deal with the problem. Our law enforcement is not up to the task of controlling ATV/UTV abuses.
As you well know, National Park Service is not well funded and therefore has a shortage of law enforcement staff to deal with the challenge of keeping ATV/UTV users on designated roads. Restoration of scars left by a few ATV/UTV renegades will be costly and will come a time when funds are limited.
Even if all ATV/UTV users within Utah National Parks stay on designated roads, the noise that these vehicles cause will be disturbing to wildlife, especially bighorn sheep, and also to other tourists. This is especially true in our Colorado Plateau landscape because the roar of passing ATV/UTVs reverberates and is magnified within slickrock canyons.