- News &
For immediate release: November 29, 2007
New Moab BLM Visitor Survey:
-- Results Call Into Question Draft ORV Travel Plan and
MOAB (Nov. 29, 2007) A new visitor use survey for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the Moab, UT region reveals that contrary to local opinion and claims made by off-road-vehicle (ORV) groups, the total number of visitors whose primary activity is off-road-vehicle sports represents less than seven percent of all visitors to the area.
ORV groups often state that power-sport visitors — those whose primary activity is the use of a dirt bike, ATV, jeep or rock crawler — comprise the majority of tourism business in the area. That statement is often used to support their call for loosening restrictions on ORVs in the area.
The new BLM study will make it difficult, if not impossible, for such groups to make that claim stick. “The extreme ORV groups like the Red Rock 4 Wheelers and USA-ALL are often quoted in the press making that claim, and this study proves they’re flat out wrong,” said Franklin Seal, local outreach coordinator for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
The study also supports recent calls by a local business leaders group, the Grand County Backcountry Council (GCBC), for the BLM to extend the comment deadline on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Moab Field Office Resource Management Plan. The business group has expressed concern that BLM’s preferred alternative contains a strong bias toward ORV use, claiming that the majority of visitors are ill-served by an overemphasis on power-sports.
“Even the county-sponsored Trail Mix group acknowledges that in some areas, such as Gemini Bridges, the quiet-users like mountain bikers, have been almost completely displaced by the power-sport users,” Seal said. “Some Moab businesses are worried that BLM is encouraging a small fraction of our visitors — the power-sport folks — to dominate almost all of the wild landscape and scenery that is the primary motivation for the vast majority of visitors to the area. I think there’s a fear out there that if BLM goes through with it’s ORV-oriented travel plan, the largest sector of Moab’s economy will be harmed.”
The study revealed that the single largest activity sector is hiking, walking and trail running at 18.3%. Mountain bikers represented the second largest group at 13.5%, while those whose primary activity included riding a dirt bike or ATV came in seventh place with only 3.2%. Driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle came in ninth with 2.8%.
The new BLM study, conducted throughout the 2006 tourism season by the Moab BLM office with the assistance of the Canyonlands Natural History Association, is part of a BLM pilot project based on a successful four-year-long nationwide survey of national forests. The study has not yet been officially released by BLM but a draft copy has been provided to some local groups and to at least one newspaper.
A copy of the draft survey report is available online at http://www.suwa.org/orvlibrary under the heading “Government Reports.”