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USA-ALL Action Alert


January 17, 2003
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City, State
Wichita, KS
Year, Model & Trim Level
1984 Bronco II
National Park Service Requests Public Comments On Final Rule Officially Closing Salt Creek Road
Greetings USA-ALL Supporters,
Under normal circumstances, responding to requests for public comments on land use plans is extremely valuable and definitely worth your time. Doing so helps organizations like USA-ALL fight unfair closures. While we definitely encourage you to respond to this ACTION ALERT we want you to know that there is little support within the Park Service for changing their decision.

That is why it is important for you to take this matter directly to your Congressman and to your Senator. Even if you live outside of Utah. The Park Service is thumbing its nose at Congress and the Courts who both have indicated that existing four wheel drive roads should remain open. This must stop, or our National Parks and Monuments will become vast Wilderness' assessable only to those healthy and hardy enough to hike long distances.

It is equally important for you to support USA-ALL, United Four Wheel Drive Associations and BlueRibbon Coalition in our efforts to keep public lands open for recreational access. We recently filed documents in Federal Court challenging the closure. As far as we are concerned, this fight is not over. We need your help.

Please take action today!
Brian Hawthorne
Utah Shared Access Alliance


The National Park Service has requested public comment on the Final Rule closing Salt Creek Road in Canyonlands National Park. Please see background information below.

What you can do:
Letters to the Park Service are encouraged. Letters and phone calls to your Congressman and Senator are needed!

Please take a moment to read the Background Information below. Information to assist you in writing to the Park Service and with your phone calls to your Congressman and Senator is included as well.

Please resolve to TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION on this important matter.

Written comments to the Park Service will be accepted by mail, fax, or electronic mail through October 10, 2003.

Comments should be addressed to: Canyonlands National Park, Attn: Salt Creek Rule, 2282 SW Resource Boulevard, Moab, Utah 84532. Fax: (435) 719-2300; Email: [email protected].

Information regarding the Final Rule is online: <


Background Information:

Allow me to clarify an important item that will affect ALL visitors to America's National Parks:

Congress did NOT create the National Park system for the purpose of "Preserving the scenery and the natural and historic objects from any and all impacts from visitation by the American People".

Quite the contrary: In 1916 Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act and mandated that the National Park Service: "hall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." (emphasis added)

Additionally, in 1970 Congress passed the General Authorities Act and declared that units of the National Park System shall be "managed for the benefit and inspiration of all the people of the United States." (emphasis added)

When creating Canyonlands National Park, Congress noted that because of the rugged terrain, access to remote areas of Canyonlands is difficult. Thus, Congress authorized the use of the pre-existing four-wheel drive roads, including Salt Creek Road, in order that the American People may have access to these remarkable areas.

In 1978 Park managers developed a General Management Plan (GMP) for Canyonlands. The goals of the GMP are to "improve visitor use and preserve the Park's resources". To achieve these goals, the BMP divided Canyonlands into management subunits and established a "desired visor experience" and "proposed uses" for each subunit. The "desired visitor experience" for the Salt Creek Canyon Subunit is that "the visitor finds himself within deep, winding canyons, where narrowing corridors lead to outstanding erosional and archeological features." The "proposed uses" for this Subunit include "four-wheel driving and four-wheel-drive camping and backpacking". To facilitate the "desired visitor experience" and to accomplish the "proposed uses" the GMP mandates that that all existing roads, including Salt Creek Road, remain open.

In 1992, the Park Service began a 3 year process to develop a Backcountry Management Plan (BMP) for Canyonlands. The BMP instituted a permit system whereby a maximum of 12 vehicles per day could use Salt Creek Road. In the environmental analysis, the Park Service determined that the negative environmental impacts that could occur from this level of vehicle use would be "minor and temporary."

Before the ink was dry on the BMP, Anti Access Zealots including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance marched straight to court demanding that ALL backcountry access be closed to vehicles (not just Salt Creek Road). Since Park Service regulations allows mountainbiking only on vehicle roads, this would have closed all roads to mountainbiking as well as motorized vehicles.

USA-ALL took the lead in defending continued access to Canyonlands, including defending the highly restrictive permit system on the Salt Creek Road. Together with our National Partners, the BlueRibbon Coalition, United Four Wheel Drive Associations and the High Desert Multiple Use Coalition, we enlisted the help and support of Mountain States Legal Foundation ( )

Team Access, represented by MSLF attorney's, were successful in keeping all of the roads open, except for the upper portion of Salt Creek Road. Make no mistake: Despite the closure of Salt Creek Road past Peekaboo Springs, THIS WAS A HUGE VICTORY. MSLF attorneys went toe to toe with experienced, foundation funded Sierra Club attorneys intent on making Canyonlands National Park a huge Wilderness Area and won!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Team Access did NOT give up. As far as we're concerned the Salt Creek Canyon Road is a National Treasure and must be protected!

Team Access appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. We won again! The Tenth Circuit reprimanded the Park Service for misinterpreting Congressional intent when creating the park and focused on the Park Services own finding that impacts from vehicle use under the permit system, if any, would be "minor and temporary."

Clearly, the Tenth Circuit had established that Congressional intent was met with the permit system. Public access up Salt Creek Canyon to Angel Arch would be permitted, and impacts minimized by the vehicle limit.

Sadly, the National Park Service had changed under the Clinton/Gore administration. Prior to the Anti-Access policies of the Clinton administration, the Park Service defended efforts by Anti-Access Zealots to close roads. Now, they argued for closure and in spite the Tenth Circuit's ruling that found the closure improper, the Park Service immediately issued a "Closure Order" which kept the Salt Creek Road closed!

Of course, they had a couple of problems. Remember that environmental analysis that determined vehicle use under the permit system would have "minor and temporary" impacts? That was proving to be a bit of a problem now. That and the fact that Congress had recognized and authorized the use of existing four-wheel drive roads! What to do? Simple... the National Park Service changed the rules!

They wrote new Management Policies that re-defined the definition of "impairment" and expanded the definition of "Park resources and values". Under these new policies, "impairment" is defined as "... an impact that, in the professional judgment of the responsible NPS manager, would harm the integrity of the park resources or values, including the opportunities that otherwise would be present for the enjoyment of those resources or values." Under the new policies, Park "resources and values" now include, among other things, natural soundscapes and smells, natural visibility (both in daytime and at night) and the physical process that created the park (?).

By establishing a new ZERO IMPAIRMENT standard and by defining "park resources and values" to included everything imaginable, the NPS has now conferred upon itself carte blanche authority to prohibit any and all uses of the national parks that some NPS employee might find objectionable.

The National Park Service has thumbed its nose at America. It seeks to establish itself as Sovereign, immune to the mandates of Congress and decisions rendered by the Federal Courts.

Please call your Congressman AND your Senator!


Comment suggestions:

* The Park Service should allow motor vehicle access on Salt Creek Road in accordance with the permit system established in the 1995 BMP. Tell the Park Service that this road is highly valued by Canyonlands visitors. Remind the Park Service that the effects of vehicle use are "minor and temporary".

* The Park Service gave little consideration to Angel Arch and no consideration to the recreational opportunity provided y driving a motor vehicle on Salt Creek Road. The Park Service gave little consideration to recreation values in the Environmental Analysis (only 6 pages compared to 29 pages to "riparian/wetland ecosystem". This is inexcusable because Congress designated Canyonlands partly to provide recreational experiences and also so that the public may view and enjoy features such as Angel Arch

* The permit system is a reasonable accommodation of the two mandates contained in the Organic Act creating Canyonlands NP. It correctly balances the need to promote and provide for the use and enjoyment of the park with the need to leave the park unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

* Closing Salt Creek Road makes Angel Arch impossible to view for the vast majority of Park visitors. Closing the road makes viewing Angle Arch possible only to those who are physically able to endure a grueling 22 mile desert backpacking trip. Remind the Park Service that this is precisely why Congress authorized the use of pre-existing four-wheel drive roads, including the Salt Creek Road for access to features like Angel Arch.

* Implementation of the Final Rule would violate the General Management Plan. Remind the Park Service that in the GMP the "proposed uses" for this area includes "four-wheel driving and four wheel drive camping and backpacking!

* Implementation of the Final Rule would frustrated Congress' intent in establishing Canyonlands NP. Congress established Canyonlands "for the inspiration, benefit, and use of the public...". To achieve these goals, Congress recognized that the existing four wheel drive roads, including Salt Creek Road, would provide visitor access to the remote areas of the Park.

* The new 2001 Management Policies should be revised. The new policies violate the Park Service Organic Act. By establishing a new ZERO IMPAIRMENT standard and by defining "park resources and values" to included everything imaginable, the NPS has now conferred upon itself carte blanche authority to prohibit any and all uses of the national parks that some NPS employee might find objectionable.


Pumpkin Pilot
Staff member
Elite Explorer
February 8, 1999
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City, State
Wayoutin, Aridzona
Year, Model & Trim Level
'93 XL Pumpkin Edition
Thanks for the info.


Moab Edition Explorer
March 27, 2002
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City, State
Ft. Collins, CO
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1992 Explorer XLT
Dang it!! How can I get stuck in quicksand now? I'll pass on the word.