Off-road vehicle owners may have to ask dozens of agencies where they can legally drive in Utah, officials told legislators Wednesday.
The Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Interim Committee was told that a law change last year closed all public lands to off-road vehicles - including snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles - unless the government agencies that oversee the land act to open it.For the past year, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, State Parks and Recreation, the state's 29 counties and other agencies have been taking different types of action on what land to open and have been working on or publishing separate maps.
For example, Cliff Blake with the recreation staff of the U.S. Forest Service said his agency is now finishing separate maps for each of the forests in the state. It is opening 54 percent of its land to off-road vehicles, and 59 percent of its roads and trails.
Reed Stalder with the BLM said his agency is further behind. It is still studying which roads to allow all-terrain vehicles on and said his agency is also working on a series of maps for different sections of the state.
Constance C. Steffen, a researcher for the Office of Legislative Research and General Council, said she surveyed 27 of the 29 counties and found that one decided to open all its roads to off-road vehicles, three opened all its dirt roads to them, five opened some dirt roads, five are studying which roads to open and 13 have taken no action, meaning all roads there are still closed.
She said only Grand County has published a map of what roads it has opened to such vehicles.
Steffen said the National Park Service also told her it does not plan to open any of its lands or roads to the vehicles.
And state officials said the state government has opened all its lands to over-snow vehicles; closed all the same lands to other types of off-road vehicles, pending more study; and opened all its roads and trails to all off-road vehicles, unless otherwise posted.
While keeping track of what agency has taken which action may be confusing, finding maps to explain it may be more confusing. A government pamphlet explaining highlights of the new off-highway vehicle law tells people to seek maps and other information at seven forest service offices, six BLM offices and at the State Division of Parks and Recreation.
Sen. John P. Holmgren, R-Bear River City, asked the various agencies if they could somehow work together to coordinate information and distribution of maps.
Stalder with the BLM said the agencies recognize the need to combine the information into a single set of maps. "There would be too much information in the state to put on one map, so maybe it would take one set of eight or 16 maps for different sections of the state."
He said some of the agencies have already discussed sharing some of their money to make maps to make that one set of maps eventually.
Members of the Off-Road Vehicle Committee, which was set up by the new law, said they would also try to help coordinate mapping efforts and help publicize what areas are open to off-road vehicles.