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Special recreation permit could affect riders in Utah

Guest columnist

I was recently made aware of an issue in the making and felt like I could not let it pass without the people of Carbon and Emery Counties being made aware of it.

It started with a letter of inquiry.

"I've heard some rumblings that the BLM is considering a limit of 25 persons and 10 vehicles before requiring a permit at group activities, and that this 10 vehicle limit would include the vehicle you use to haul your machine with. I was also told that the Salt Lake office was about to implement this new regulation or that they had already done so. Is there any truth to this?"

The reply?

"Yes. There is truth. The new Special Recreation Permit (SRP) regulations give the field or district office manager a blank check on how they can administer SRP's. We expect most field offices in Utah will determine how to handle the new SRP policy in their new Resource Management Plan (RMP)."

This is a huge mistake. If they do so, and for any reason they find a need to change them, then it will require a full-blown plan amendment.

The Salt Lake office is the only office in Utah that has implemented the new policy so far. All other field offices are still working off the old 50 person limit rule. Salt Lake's policy is very restrictive. It requires an application for any group (of two or more) that is "publicly advertised." Or, say two large families meet in the San Rafael Swell one day by accident, and they decide to ride together. Under Salt Lake's policy, that would be illegal even though it was totally accidental. Why? Simply because they would be riding together, on the same trails, as a group.

The Salt Lake office requires an application be submitted 180 days prior to the ride, They somehow will decide from the application if the applicant needs a permit. If they do, they will also need insurance, and they'll also have to file an "operation plan" for approval by the BLM. We will certainly need to make certain that we dot every i and cross every t. If we don't we'd in big trouble.

It's the stupidest thing I've ever seen! It deliberately hurts the responsible people; the kind of people who like to ride in clubs. I think it also has the potential to drive our OHV (off highway vehicle) clubs underground. The new policy imposes requirements that are impossible to meet for even the largest and well organized OHV clubs. If forced to comply with the application and insurance requirements, clubs will fold.

The BLM is fooling themselves if they think OHV users are going to quit recreating in groups. People are still going to ride and they are still going to ride in groups so the new policy probably won't change very much actual usage. The difference is, under the new policy, the clubs won't be around to assist the BLM in getting OHV grant money, do adopt-a-trails programs and trail patrols or all of the other great stuff our clubs do.

The amusing thing to me is that they apparently want to implement this in the Moab office as well. If they do, I'm going to make it my life's mission to see that it is enforced to the letter. I guarantee that if they require an application from every "organized group" that enters the Moab area, they'll have to quadruple the staff, and processing permits is all they'll have time for.

We've brought this to the attention of the BLM at the highest levels. Sadly, it seems that most of the decision makers don't really seem to understand why it's a big deal. Some of them seem to feel it's a great way to supplement their recreation budget. It will actually do the opposite, and I'm getting the impression they wouldn't have a bit of a problem with that. Everyone needs to call their Congressman over this one!

Just think of what the future may bring. I .... You... no one will be able to go on BLM land for a "date" with their honey without letting the BLM know 180 days in advance, as you become a "group" of 2 or more. You also won't be able to have a family outing with your kids without proving that you have insurance, and have an "operation plan", 180 days in advance. Heaven forbid you would mention that you want to go riding somewhere and someone "overhears" you and says that they would like to go too. Now it's public knowledge that there's a "organized activity" being planned.

Recently my husband and 1, and another couple hosted a ride down to the Devil's Racetrack-Eva Conover Highway Loop. We enjoyed a beautiful spring day with a wonderful group of people, some of which had never been on a four wheeler. A lot of them had never been on the Racetrack Loop. There were 29 people on 26 machines. (That ought to give the BLM something to stew over). I am neither ashamed nor afraid to take a group such as this down there, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Personally I believe each and every, and any one of these people has every right to be there at any time. They should not have to choose the company they want to keep, especially if they have no problem riding with a group of this size.

It's no wonder that some of those of us who serve on the Arapeen Trail Council, on the Manti-Lasal Mountain, do not want our Arapeen name connected to the San Rafael Swell. We discussed the fact the BLM could not be trusted.

I urge citizens to write their Congressman, and their County Officials, (both in Carbon and Emery), and the BLM office and to let them know your feelings.

Don't wait for somebody else to do it, somebody has, and now it's your turn.

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