Environews: Factory Butte opened to off-road mayhem

By Amy Brunvand

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Richfield Field Office has rescinded cross-country travel restrictions on 5,400 acres of public lands near Factory Butte, a scenic landmark on the road between Hanksville and  Capitol Reef National Park. The area was closed to unrestricted cross-country driving in 2006 due to soil erosion and threats to endangered plants. Even so, the area was not “locked up” from public use since off-roaders could use established trails and a 2,500-acre play area called “Swing Arm City.”

Now 5,400 acres of Utah’s public lands have been given to the exclusive use of a single interest group with no opportunity for other stakeholders to weigh in. Unrestricted cross-country driving tears up vegetation and chases out other animals and human beings because of noise, pollution and danger from fast-moving vehicles.

BLM claims adequate protections are in place for endangered plants in the area, but a milquetoast request that “motorized users stay within the OHV open play areas” seems like entirely inadequate enforcement to rein in adrenaline-charged thrill-riding.

This article was originally published on July 2, 2019.