Off-road vehicles can be both a boon and a bane to backcountry travel. They can help you get all your gear to remote places, but irresponsible drivers can tear up the backcountry at the same time.
So how should off-road vehicles be managed at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Utah? Should they be given free rein, or be reined in? NRA officials are setting out on developing an ORV management plan and are interested in your thoughts.
For now the officials are simply looking for substantive comments to help them craft the issues to be addressed in an environmental impact statement examining ORV use in their backyard.
And that plan will not come without some controversy. Utah is fairly heavily pro-ORV, and there have been many instances of landscape damage inflicted by some ORVs. County officials in the southern half of the state are particularly pro-ORV and don't like federal officials to tell them where ORVs can and can't be allowed. Evidence of that came about a year ago when an appellate court ruled that Kane County, Utah, officials could not sign as open for ORV travel routes referred to as R.S. 2477 rights-of-way until a clear adjudication of those access rights is made. Some of those routes where in Glen Canyon.
More to the point, majority on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the county's actions violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause provides that federal law supersedes local or state laws involving federal issues where the two conflict.
R.S. 2477 is a Civil War-era statute initially created to further western expansion. In 1976 Congress repealed the law, but not before providing that any valid R.S. 2477 route existing at the time of the repeal could continue in use. Since then, there have been many debates and many lawsuits over what constituted a valid R.S. 2477 route. These days, some states, counties, and off-road groups have claimed that washes, two-tracks, even hiking trails are "highways" that they are entitled to open to motorized travel.
Which brings us to the Glen Canyon planning effort. According to a release from the NRA, the "ORV Vehicle Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will evaluate a range of alternatives associated with recreational ORV use at Glen Canyon and their environmental impacts. Currently, off-road driving occurs at several of Glen Canyon’s accessible shorelines and at Lone Rock Beach. Off-road driving in these locations allows the public to leave the designated road and drive to Lake Powell’s shoreline to fish, camp, picnic, boat, or engage in other recreational activities. In addition, the EIS will evaluate the existing high intensity ORV use at Lone Rock Beach Play Area, all-terrain vehicle travel on park roads, and ORV use at the Ferry Swale area."
The public is invited to submit ideas and proposals on ORV management. All comments must be received by November 24, 2010. Comments may be submitted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/glca. Comments may also be mailed to: Superintendent, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Re: ORV Management Plan/EIS, P.O. Box 1507, Page, AZ 86040.
In addition, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area will host seven open houses to present draft alternatives, gather input and answer questions. Here's the list of those open houses:
Glen Canyon NRA headquarters, 691 Scenic View Drive, Page, Arizona; 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
USU/CEU San Juan Campus, Blanding Arts & Events Center, 715 W. 200 S., Blanding, Utah; 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Escalante Interagency Visitor Center, 755 W. Main, Escalante, Utah; 4 p.m.- 7 p.m.
Kanab Middle School, 690 S. Cowboy Way, Kanab, Utah; 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Summit Fire District Station 33, 5040 N. Hwy 89, Flagstaff, Arizona; 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Oljato Chapter House, San Juan County Road 420/Monument Valley Road/Oljato Road, approximately 12 miles west of Highway 163 Junction, Oljato, Utah; 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Navajo Mountain Chapter House, Navajo Route 16, approximately 35 miles north of Highway 98 junction, Navajo Mountain, Utah; 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.