The use of Off Road Vehicles (ORV), often referred to as four-wheelers, or All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), continues to grow in popularity and represents an ongoing and significant threat to the fragile and irreplaceable landscapes of the American West.
ORVs can severely impact the delicate soils and waterways of western ecosystems. Destruction of soil and vegetation by off-road vehicles leads to erosion and soil compaction, which then affects water absorption and soil permeability. Vegetation damage, degradation of wilderness values and cultural sites, harassment of wildlife, and destruction of desert biotic crusts are additional impacts of ORV use that, once incurred, are difficult to remediate.
With their priority focused on oil and gas leasing, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does little to monitor ORV use, much less enforce regulations. Current agency plans call for closing less than 6% of public lands in the contiguous western states to ORV use. In Wyoming for example, 97.5% of BLM land is currently open to ORV use, either year round or seasonally. Figures are similar for other states. The BLM is now predicting a 200% increase in off-road vehicle use over the next 20 years, and concerned citizens have been organizing local groups to collaborate with larger conservation organizations to limit ORV access to sensitive public lands ecosystems.
EcoFlight works throughout the Rocky Mountain region, collaborating with our conservation partners in addressing this damaging and unbalanced use of our western public lands. Our flights have taken press and local activists, scientists and photographers and writers over numerous sensitive and threatened landscapes.
There have been a couple of notable victories. In the Vermilion Cliffs area of Utah, there are now forced closures to ORVs, and in the Factory Butte area, there are plans for designated ORV use and areas restricted from ORV usage.
The most recent news on ORV issues comes as a victory to SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) in May of 2011 when a federal judge ruled against San Juan County and the state of Utah in their bid to open an off-road vehicle route in Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. The route was originally closed over a decade earlier to stop engine oil and grease from polluting the stream and the destruction of wildlife habitat.
The challenge for us is that the BLM requires the submission of scientific data supporting their claims that ORV travel is not appropriate in these areas. These areas are remote and EcoFlight continues to provide overflights as the most effective way to document direct ecosystem impacts.
Description: Senator Udall’s Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Act will consider bestowing wilderness protections on 236,000 acres in Colorado, including some parts of Eagle County. If enacted, this proposal will curb the impact of industrial tourism and motorized vehicle use in wild places... read more
Region: Near Hanksville, Utah
Description: Off-road vehicle (ORV) use on Utah’s public lands is an enormously controversial public lands issue and ORV-caused damage – erosion, water pollution, noise, air-borne dust, crushed and looted archaeological sites — continues to increase in this fragile desert landscape... read more