ST. GEORGE — As park officials move forward with plans to open more areas for off-road vehicle use around Lake Powell, a conservation group says the decision is careless and puts the area’s unique landscape at risk for damage.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials announced Monday that they will be approving new regulations that will “increase access and recreational opportunities within the park.” The changes come after the National Park Service drafted an environmental impact statement and reviewed more than 6,000 public comments about proposed changes to regulations managing the use of off-road vehicles in the park.
“Our intent with this plan is to increase access for these classes of motor vehicles and also ensure we offer a wide and diverse range of opportunities to maximize all public recreation use,” Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Superintendent William Shott said in a news release issued by the park service.
The new management plan authorizes street legal off-road vehicle use on the majority of paved and unpaved roads throughout the recreation area and permits off-road use along 14 accessible shorelines, at Lone Rock Beach and Play Area, and on approximately 21 miles of off-road routes.
Off-road vehicles will now be permitted on unpaved roads south of the Orange Cliffs Unit that were previously limited to conventional vehicles and street-legal all-terrain vehicles. Off-road vehicle use is also authorized on approximately eight miles of road in the southern portion of the Orange Cliffs Unit, completing the 100-mile Poison Spring Loop located on park service and adjacent Bureau of Land Management lands.
Allowing off-road use in the delicate Orange Cliffs area is particularly concerning to the National Parks Conservation Association, a nonpartisan conservation group based in Washington, D.C.
“ATV use in Glen Canyon’s Orange Cliffs region will likely jeopardize the remote, backcountry solitude of adjacent Canyonlands National Park. With limited park staff to monitor this region for damaging and illegal ORV use, it is careless to put these special places at risk,” Erika Pollard, Utah senior program manager for National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement Tuesday.
The association says the plan ignores the potentially broad and significant impacts from widespread off-road use on the park’s plants, wildlife and remote wilderness qualities.
The park service says it consulted with cooperating agencies, elected officials, tribes and the Arizona and Utah State Historic Preservation offices while working out the objectives of the new off-road vehicle management plan to open the park to a wider scope of recreational use.
“I believe we successfully met these objectives while ensuring we continue to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources that make the recreation area special,” Shott said. “This balance was only possible because of the substantial collaboration from our partners and public.”
However, the National Parks Conservation Association says there isn’t a need to open up the park for additional off-road use when there are already 7,000 miles of designated off-road vehicle routes around Glen Canyon.
“Widespread ORV use in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area will sacrifice another beautiful place to damage,” Pollard said. “With this decision, the National Park Service is not living up to its stewardship responsibilities.”
The park will begin implementation of the plan in 2019. Part of the plan includes a permit system for off-road vehicle access to shorelines, the Lone Rock Beach and Play Area and most off-road vehicle routes. The permit fees will support education and provide cost recovery for administration and monitoring of the program.
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