The popular annual Easter Jeep Safari, which attracts some 1,700 four-wheel-drive vehicles to Moab over Easter, will keep on wheeling for the next five years.
The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday renewed a permit for the sponsoring organization, Red Rock 4-wheelers, to use 30 off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes and seven campsites.
"The current permit authorizes activities similar to those of past years," said Maggie Wyatt, manager of the BLM's Moab office. The safari, held over a nine-day period at Easter, and the Fall Campout, held over Labor Day weekend, utilize established routes and campsites featured in commercial guidebooks, she added.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which requested some route changes, was disappointed with the decision.
"We had hoped BLM would take an opportunity to create a win-win situation, but it failed to do that. And that's too bad," said Mike Reberg, SUWA's spokesman. "In the end, the BLM gave the safari a win but not the environment."
SUWA sought to close a handful of the routes because of riparian damage. A campsite located in a riparian area near Dripping Spring is the only site eliminated from the permit, an area Red Rock 4-wheelers voluntarily deleted at the request of the BLM.
But there will be increased monitoring, a new stipulation in the permit. And the BLM may change the terms of the permit should the conditions change.
"The monitoring information will help BLM identify trends and get better data about on-the-ground trail condition," Wyatt said.
The decision to renew the permit followed two public hearings held in November, plus an additional 15-day comment period that ended on March 19. More than 500 comments were received.
"Several people raised additional concerns, including consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service for the Mexican spotted owl. The service has concurred with our finding of no effect," Wyatt said.
The Easter Jeep Safari has been held annually since 1966. It was initially organized by the Moab Chamber of Commerce but has been managed by the Red Rock 4-wheelers Jeep club since 1985.
This year's Jeep Safari will run from April 7 to April 15.
"The Jeep Safari is a tightly run event," Wyatt said. "The Red Rock 4-wheelers can take justifiable pride in their extraordinary efforts to educate safari participants about responsible trail use. The club's work supports our mutual goal of educating visitors about traveling only on established routes. Off-route tracking is ugly, destructive and harms Moab's world-famous natural beauty. We want everyone to avoid driving over vegetation and undisturbed soil areas."