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ATV Adventures: Protecting the OHV trails we love to ride

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 9, 2024
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The Slipper Arch in the San Rafael Swell. This spot is so far from anywhere that it would not be accessible without motorized travel.
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This is another trail in the San Rafael Swell area that would not be available to see other than with motorized travel.
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The beauties of the backcountry are more available to elderly people via motorized travel.
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This is a trail we rode on the Kanab Red Rock Jamboree that is a part of Utah's beautiful backcountry that's only accessible by OHVs.
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Lynn Blamires

While Texas and California top the country in the number of OHV owners, Utah tops the country in miles of OHV trail. Utah’s OHV trails draw people from all over the world.

I have spent 20 years writing about the amazing trails that Utah has to offer. Those articles have included information on places to ride, trail etiquette, Tread Lightly principles and honoring trail restrictions.

I am aware that there are groups that don’t like OHV activities. Some have actively sought to ban motorized recreation and close trails to motorized access. These are mostly old mining roads that already exist. They want to save these lands for future generations with no indication that people in those generations would have any more access than what they want to restrict us to. Wilderness study areas are set up that shut out motorized recreation with no end of the study part in sight.

In the early days of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), the users were younger. With the introduction of side-by-sides, the demographics have shifted to older and more responsible retired people.

This group discovered motorized access to Utah’s beautiful backcountry that didn’t exist before. This is the only means these people have to access the backcountry. Closing these trails limits access to a few who can hike. Little regard is to the impact these closers have on rural Utah economies.

While these people have a lot of money to lobby in Washington, Utah has a lot of registered OHV users. According to stateparks.utah.gov, there are about 200,000, without snowmobiles. The non-resident OHV permits sold annually add about 40,000 more people who ride our trails.

The Bureau of Land Management is reviewing 12 travel management plans this year. A TMP will have several options that range from keeping the current trails open in a given area to a plan that would close an extreme number of trails. The BLM will then offer a period for public comment, usually 45 days. That doesn’t leave much time to ride the trails affected by the TMP and form your comments.

Utah Public Lands Alliance has a tool on its website (https://utahpla.com) called Trail Saver. It is an easy program that walks you through the comment process to make meaningful comments on the trails you ride.

Take pictures of the trail to show track conditions and the beauty of the scenery in your report. You can include a GPS track with your comments.

There’s nothing more effective than putting your thoughts in writing right after your ride when everything is fresh in your mind, and your photos and GPS tracks are readily available.

You can give reasons why you choose to ride in a particular area. This is an opportunity to point out why other ways of access aren’t practical.

Avoid general opinions and stories without facts. Instead, identify how this trail meets your purposes for riding. If this track is one that you have ridden for many years, express that.

One of the most important actions to keep our roads, trails and public lands open is to write meaningful comments on every trail you ride. Unfortunately, 90% of all comments submitted to the BLM are not considered because they don’t meet BLM standards. General statements like, “I don’t think any roads should be closed” are opinions that aren’t supported by facts.

When you have ridden a trail — and this is any trail — go to the UPLA website and follow the steps outlined to submit your comments. The reason to do this for every track is to get practice in making meaningful comments. After your submission to UPLA, you will get a formatted response with your notes.

When the BLM comment period opens, you will get another email with your notes and instructions for submitting comments that will make a difference to the BLM. The idea is that when a period is opened for public comment, you can do your part in submitting comments that will make a difference in keeping our trails open.

It will take time for this process to work because we all need practice in sensibly forming our thoughts. We are the ones to do it because we ride the trails and care about keeping them open.

It is time for the voice of the OHV community to be heard. This is a proactive way of doing it. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and record notes on every trail.

Contact Lynn R. Blamires at quadmanone@ gmail.com.


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