Off-road vehicles such as ATVs and UTVs will soon be allowed on roads in Utah’s national parks after a controversial policy change last week.
Without first seeking public input, the National Park Service’s acting regional director, Palmer Jenkins, instructed Utah park superintendents to align park policy with Utah state law, meaning road-legal off-highway vehicles will be able to enter Arches, Canyonlands and other national parks in the state.
"Our commitment to protect those resources absolutely remains, so people who decide they will go off-road will be cited,” said National Park Service spokesperson Vanessa Lacayo.
That doesn’t comfort Neal Clark of the nonprofit Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Clark worries more vehicles will illegally go off-road in the park, causing extensive damage, and will cause noise pollution.
"Our national parks are places that people travel across the country and across the world to visit, and they go there for solitude and quiet, not to be disrupted by these very loud, very obnoxious off-road vehicles,” Clark said.
Utah state lawmaker Phil Lyman, among those who pressured Jenkins to make the policy change, stresses that it doesn’t create new trails in national parks. “It’s just taking away the discriminatory distinction between a UTV and other street-legal vehicles,” he said.
Montana and Arizona already allow off-road vehicles on national park roads.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.