Reversal for OHVs: NPS rescinds controversial ruling

OHVs not in parks
Off-highway vehicles, such as the UTV in this photo, continue to be banned from Utah’s national parks after a federal rule reversal last week. Photo by Carter Pape

After a month of public backlash in reaction to an order allowing off-highway vehicles on the roads in Utah’s national parks and monuments, the National Park Service has walked the directive back.

The reversal comes weeks after Grand County elected officials from the county council, the Moab City Council and the Town Council of Castle Valley voted unanimously to jointly sign a resolution opposing the order and imploring Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, the acting regional director of the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region, to reverse course.

Jenkins’ order directed the managers of Utah’s National Parks to change their existing policies, which for years had cited noise concerns and other problems posed by OHVs to rationalize their ban from parks.

Kate Cannon, who oversees Canyonlands and Arches national parks as the superintendent of the park service’s Southeast Utah Group, was among the officials who had a problem with the policy change. At a recent meeting with other local officials from various public lands agencies and elected officials including Rep. John Curtis, R-Provo, she said that she was intent on keeping the rules as they were.

“[In the past,] we acted through our own regulations to preclude the entrance of those vehicles into the parks, and that has stood for the last 11 years” Cannon said. “Now, there’s a proposal that that be changed, and we’re working right now to avoid that happening.”

At that meeting, Curtis indicated to local officials that he would be willing to speak with officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior about the policy, in hopes of keeping OHVs out of the parks, but only if that was the will of local officials.

“To the extent that there could be a resolution from the counties or the cities or both, that is a very, very powerful tool,” Curtis told local and regional officials.

Elected officials did, in the end, pass such a resolution, and OHVs will continue to be banned from Utah parks and monuments.

OHVs will, as before, still be allowed in certain recreational areas in and around Moab, including the Sand Flats Recreation Area, trails near Kane Creek, most land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and elsewhere, including Moab’s streets.