I am one of the many, many Moab residents who have great concern about the damage that allowing OHVs on roads in Utah national parks would cause, and appreciate Rep. John Curtis stating that he wanted to know the opinions of people in his district. While it is important that a member of Congress like Curtis listens to and represents constituent concerns, let us not forget that national parks belong to all Americans, and are to be preserved unimpaired for the benefit of future generations under the National Park Service Organic Art.
One unique perspective that residents of southeastern Utah can provide is our first-hand knowledge of the damage that OHVs are causing the public lands all around Moab, especially by side-by-sides and other ATVs driving off road, over biological soil crusts, destroying vegetation and even harming archaeological sites. Further, we know the noise and air quality impacts that side-by-sides cause. For example, as I write this letter in my house (with windows and doors shut) almost a mile from Main Street at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday night, I can hear the roar of side-by-sides driving through town. Imagine that type of roar echoing through the solitude and peace of the backcountry in Canyonlands National Park
In addition to what Moabites know about the adverse impacts that side-by-sides have on public lands, including natural quiet and air quality, there is the larger concern that national parks must be managed according to law and policy. For example, the National Environmental Policy Act requires that any management action that could impact resources be scientifically evaluated, and there must be a public comment period, which did not occur. Likewise, the National Park Service is required to do compliance under the National Historic Preservation Act, which apparently also did not occur.
Even if the NPS could make the argument that OHVs will not drive off of park roads (which is not realistic based on what we know happens on public land surrounding Moab), park resources (including wildlife) will still be impaired by the noise and air quality impacts of OHVs.
National parks are national treasures, and are the heritage of all Americans. The NPS should not allow OHVs to impair park resources, as well as impair the experience of other visitors who value natural quiet, good air quality, and vegetation and desert soils not scarred by tire tracks going off road.
– Allyson Mathis