Park Service rescinds order allowing ATVs in Utah’s national parks

ST. GEORGE — Last month the National Park Service announced it would allow all-terrain and similar off-road vehicles inside Utah’s five national parks. On Friday, a week before the change was to go into effect, the Park Service announced it was rescinding the order.

View of Zion’s monoliths looking north from the Zion Human History Museum, Zion National Park, March 3, 2017 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

“After further consultation between the National Park Service and the Department of Interior, including the Secretary of the Interior, the NPS today directed that all ORV closures at national park sites in Utah currently in place will remain in effect,” the National Park Service said in a statement issued Friday.

The announcement comes after multiple conservation groups and other parties asked for the National Park Service to reconsider allowing ATVs into the parks.

Last week, Grand County leaders passed a resolution asking park officials to change their minds on the order. In Southern Utah, Springdale and Rockville officials announced a plan to meet next week to discuss their own resolution against ATVs being allowed in the parks.

The National Park Service said the Utah law does allow for certain street-legal, registered ATVs and similar vehicles on state roads, and the order given Sept. 24 would have allowed them within the parks.

This 2014 file photo shows an ATV protest ride through Recapture Canyon near Blanding, Utah, May 10, 2014 | Photo by Dallas Hyland, St. George News

ATV advocates have long attempted to gain access to national parks and were pleased when the announcement was made last month. Now they’re expressing disappointment and accusing federal parks officials of caving to special interests groups.

Phil Lyman, a Utah state legislator and ATV advocate, said he’s angry the U.S. government isn’t honoring a Utah state law, according to a report by the Associated Press.

“I thought this was an acknowledgment that we are a nation of laws,” Lyman said. “I don’t why they backed down.”

Unlike ATV users who wanted to access the national parks, conservation advocates are glad the order was rescinded.

“The Park Service made the right decision to keep off-road vehicles out of Utah’s national parks and monuments,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Thor’s Hammer, one of Bryce Canyon National Park’s most iconic hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, July 15, 2016 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

“There are tens of thousands of miles of roads and dirt trails throughout Utah where these vehicles can be driven,” he said. “Trying to shoehorn that use into the parks and monuments didn’t make sense and inevitably would have resulted in damage to the very things that make these places so remarkable and what visitors come to experience.”

Conservationists argued that some ATV riders would take their vehicles off-road within the parks instead of staying on designated roadways and pose a threat to the parks’ clean air, water, natural quiet and protected environments.

“National Parks were established to conserve the cultural and natural history of this nation so that all generations can enjoy the incredible natural and cultural resources and scenery,” said Phil Brueck, former deputy superintendent of Canyonlands and Arches national parks.

In a statement posted to social media, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, an ATV advocacy group, said it was disappointed that the National Park Service “has caved in to entrenched special interest groups to reverse their decision to allow street-legal OHVs onto the same park roads accessed by millions of other vehicles.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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