SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — ATVs will be allowed on certain roads in Utah’s five national parks under a new rule from the National Park Service that went through without public comment.
The rule taking effect Nov. 1 only applies to Utah to conform with a state law passed in 2008 that allows any “street-legal” vehicle on state and county roads, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The Park Service’s acting regional director, Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, informed park administrators last week in a memo about the policy change that allows ATVs and so-called utility terrain vehicles, or UTVs, on main access roads and back roads if they have standard safety equipment and are registered and insured.
The agency had previously opted not to align with the state law because it feared it would be too easy for ATVs to drive off roads. But National Park Service spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo said off-roading won’t be allowed.
“This alignment with state law isn’t carte blanche to take their ATVs off-road,” Lacayo said. “If people [drive] off-road, they will be cited. Protection of these resources is paramount.”
The change drew heat from conservation groups that say it will worsen traffic and parking issues, disrupt wildlife and pierce the solitude for visitors.
“These are national parks that have incredible resources, cultural resources, natural resources,” said Kristen Brengel, the National Parks Conservation Association’s vice president of government affairs. “By allowing these vehicles that are tailored to go anywhere, you’re potentially putting these resources at risk.
She said the Park Service should have gone through the appropriate public process, including performing an environmental analysis. Her organization is weighing options to block the rule.
Off-highway vehicle advocacy groups and many southern Utah county commissioners pushed for the change, like Newell Harward, whose Wayne County includes part of Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
“We are happy with it,” he said. “It will increase some tourism issues with folks who want to use some of these roads with street-legal UTVs.”