Moab Off-Roading Restrictions – Which Side Are You On?

The use of public lands for off-roading – like those found around Moab, Utah – has long been a touchy subject. On the one side, some feel that any motorized vehicles access will harm nature. On the other side, off-roading enthusiasts feel that they have a right to enjoy public lands, and that they can balance off-roading with environmental awareness and respect, preserving the character of the parks.

4×4’s gathered at a Moab trail.

What side of the issue are you on? Here are the arguments:

The Argument AGAINST Off-Road Vehicles in Utah’s National Parks

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is one of the most vocal opponents of allowing off-roaders unfettered access to the regions surrounding Moab. Their arguments are bolstered by what they view as the desecration of the land by vehicle tracks, pollution (both environmental and noise) and the potential disruption of natural waterways, archaeological sites and wildlife.

SUWA encourages the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to force 4×4 vehicles to stick to specific, designated trails and not run free across the Moab landscape. They would also like the BLM to repair damage that has already been done to the area. SUWA is dedicated to getting “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act” passed, which would place a large number of public lands under the protection of the National Wilderness Preservation System – effectively sealing them off from 4×4 traffic.

The Argument FOR Off-Road Vehicles In Utah’s National Parks

Off-road activist groups are understandably upset with the idea that they might soon be completely banned from much of Utah’s prime trails. They claim that almost half of existing trails have already been closed off to motorized traffic, and that there is no need to impose a blanket ban on land use in areas that are essentially open to every American citizen to enjoy.

Off-road enthusiasts such as those who are active in the ShareTrails.org BlueRibbon Coalition – dedicated to promoting and protecting 4×4 rights of access across the United States – also feel that off-road vehicles have been unfairly lumped in with mineral and natural gas exploration that has genuinely threatened the Moab environment.

Seeking a Balance

There is no question that irresponsible off-road driving can quickly turn a beautiful landscape into a muddy mess. That being said, is a blanket ban on 4×4 access really the most equitable solution for protecting the thousands of square miles of Moab public lands that SUWA is determined to save? Would such a prohibitive land use policy merely encourage illegal driving and work against the SUWA mandate? Is it fair for a one group to impose its views on how public land should be used instead of developing a land-sharing policy that takes into account those on every side of the issue?

These are complicated questions that might not have easy answers. What do you think should be done in order to protect the rights of off-road vehicle owners while simultaneously preserving the Moab region from environmental destruction?