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Comment on Desert Roadless Traveled
This week's program, Desert Roadless Traveled, prompted a thoughtful comment from a listener, and a response from Kurt, our guest reporter who contributed the story.
Oliver Hager, a listener in Germany wrote:
First thanks for your great podcasts that I am
enjoying for nearly two years. I am living in Germany
that practically does not offer any wilderness areas.
I am a huge fan of the North American outdoors that I
visit every year.
Regarding your latest podcast: in my opinion it is
very important to have those dirt roads into those
nature areas. They allow people with normal physical
condition to experience real wilderness that would be
otherwise inaccessible because of the long distance,
lack of water, etc. This autumn I had a 2 weeks
vacation in the Grand Staircase Escalante National
Monument and used those roads to access the back
country for hiking and camping. It gave me one of the
finest wilderness experiences I have ever had. What a
magic place with its canyons and washes. For me the
neighboring national parks are too crowded and over
regulated. Except the Cottonwood road the visitation
was very low. Most of the time I was alone. The
occasional damages I saw were mostly cattle trails and
trash (probably from locals). I saw a few ATV tracks
(usually through river beds). I felt responsible and
used the existing trails for vehicle and foot travel,
had no fire and carried all the waste out. And I think
most visitors are doing so, too.
In my opinion the rangers should show more presence in
the open field instead of sitting in the visitor
centers. Especially on weekends it looks like nobody
is controlling this area. The only ranger I saw was
from a nearby state park (Kodachrome Basin).
It would be a real loss for the outdoor lovers if that
area would get some tedious permit system or worse
become a wilderness area that would inaccessible for
Kurt Repanshek wrote this response:
There already exist thousands of miles of dirt roads open to OHV and ATV use in Utah. Current proposals aimed at reining-in OHV use are not designed to close all of these routes, but rather intended to provide some balance and protect lands with wilderness-quality environments until Congress can decide whether they should be formally designated as wilderness.
Much of the problem with unrestricted OHV use is that some users head off designated routes and create new, illegal trails that can strike at the heart of the landscape's wilderness qualities. Sadly, even in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, where there are ample OHV opportunities, some users insist on blazing their own routes in areas off-limits to OHVs.
Access isn't the issue in these discussions. Rather, it's excessive OHV use.