Locals question ESJ impact; BLM responds
by Jacque Garcia
The Times-Independent
Apr 05, 2018 | 657 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hundreds of Jeeps and thousands of participants line up for the Easter Jeep Safari sendoff on Saturday, March 31.                     Photo by Greg Knight
Hundreds of Jeeps and thousands of participants line up for the Easter Jeep Safari sendoff on Saturday, March 31. Photo by Greg Knight

The annual Easter Jeep Safari is impossible to miss in Moab. During the entirety of the event, Jeeps line Main Street — and hotels, restaurants and shops are full to the brim. But what is the actual impact of such a large-scale event on Moab and its inhabitants?

Howard Trenholme of Red Rock Bakery reports that during the nine-day event he was busy, but not uniquely because of the hoards of jeepers in town. “It was a great week,” Trenholme said. “I’d have to say my business is not really a Jeep business, but I was busy.” Once the season starts in Moab, Trenholme’s business is steady. He continued, “Personally my business is more affected all of the other weekends. Bikers, climbers and hikers love coffee shops. The clientele changes.”

The Gonzo Inn’s Cali Bisco shared similar sentiments. “It is just spring. We’re pretty booked throughout the summer from March through October,” Bisco said, adding that the hotel was filled entirely with Jeep Safari participants.

“We host Jeep and Chrysler every year at the hotel,” explained Bisco. “They bring a bunch of media and we book with them out of the week.” For the Gonzo Inn, and many other businesses in town, Easter Jeep Safari represents the beginning of Moab’s busy season — which seems to be getting longer every year. Bisco estimates she has seen a 20 percent increase in revenue created during each season since she has been with the company.

“Our clientele typically is a lot of mountain bikers, a lot of couples, a lot of river rafters, so it just depends on the season,” she explained. Of the benefits of Jeep Safari in particular, though, she said, “It really helps with revenue when it’s in March versus April, when it’s going to be busy anyway.”

The Jeep Safari is always held during the week prior to Easter, so its calendar dates each year tend to vary.

Moab hosts various large-scale events throughout the summer, such as the recent Canyonlands Half Marathon, but few provoke such a strong reaction from locals as Easter Jeep Safari. There is even an annual canyoneering event hosted on a Facebook page in protest of the jeepers.

“Participation varies each year, and it’s important to remember many people visit during the spring break besides those registered for Easter Jeep Safari,” Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Lisa Bryant said. “In 2012, BLM completed an environmental assessment analyzing potential impacts regarding this type of use.”

The study asked exactly what many residents were asking — and continue to ask — about the impacts of Jeep Safari. According to Bryant, the study showed no apparent trend in the growth of vehicle use related to Jeep Safari in the area over a 10-year period.

Bryant attributes most of the growth in the use of public lands to events not affiliated with Easter Jeep Safari, and with non-jeep activities in general.

“The Moab field office estimates nearly 2.8 million visitors on public lands in our area last year ... There can be impacts associated with recreation, particularly the large numbers of visitors we experience,” she explained. “Permitted events, such as Jeep Safari, are a very small percentage of total recreation use, yet can have a large beneficial impact through teaching participants responsible recreation and Leave No Trace principles.”

According to Bryant, BLM works directly with Red Rock 4-Wheelers for Jeep Safari and throughout the year. Jennifer Jones, the assistant field manager for BLM in Moab, explained, “Red Rock 4-Wheelers have an excellent record of complying with their permit stipulations and promoting responsible recreation with participants. This resource ethic continues throughout the year, as the group leads volunteer service efforts, assisting BLM with trail work and restoration projects.”

Bryant added, “This year, more than a dozen BLM employees, including the Moab field manager, participated in some of the rides or hiked along to monitor the event. The BLM consistently observed trip leaders sharing important information about resource protection, sanitation, what to do if a spill occurs, and how to tread lightly on the land.”

The system is not perfect, but BLM continues to work with Red Rock 4-Wheelers to improve the event, Jones added.

“The Red Rock 4-Wheelers work with BLM each year, identifying ways to improve the Easter Jeep Safari event and mitigate potential impacts,” Jones said. “Significant planning goes into each event, based on a model of continual learning and cooperation.”

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