Kestrel Education Program: Greater Canyonlands

Jul 23, 2013

EcoFlight flew students from University of Colorado's INVST Community Studies program over Utah's Greater Canyonlands to look at these wild landscapes and the various threats to the region.

Outdoor enthusiasts come to hike, climb, mountain bike and camp among the red-rocks and canyons. Most people who visit Moab are familiar with Canyonlands and Arches, but many do not realize that the geological formation that makes this place unique extends beyond the park, covering over 1.4 million acres. Many of our partner organizations are fighting for extended protection of this region called Greater Canyonlands. This area is under threat by constant off-road vehicle (ORV) abuse, oil and gas development, proposed uranium and tar sands mining, and expanded potash mining. Citizens are petitioning the president to designate the Greater Canyonlands as a National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act, protecting it as a national place of historic and scientific importance.

Threats from off-road vehicle abuse have significant negative impacts to landscapes. Irresponsible or badly planned ORV use can result in erosion, stream sedimentation, destroy healthy stream banks and vegetation, increase water temperatures and lower the water table, threatening fish and aquatic habitat. Vehicles can damage fragile topsoils and create large dust storms, which can affect the snowpack in mountains as far away as Colorado.

Posing another threat to the region's integrity is tar sands development. The tar sands mining on state land in PR Springs is a reminder of how destructive this industry could be to the heartland of Utah's redrock desert.