This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So, it was not inappropriate, as Cannon implied, for a group of 93 of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to implore Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to restrict off-highway vehicle use on some federal lands in Utah.

Said Cannon, "I don't presume to set transportation policy for Chicago or New York, so I would appreciate my colleagues - none of whom are from Utah - not trying to protect Utah from Utahns."

But asking Kempthorne "to protect Utah's exceptional archaeological and wilderness resources by immediately protecting wilderness-character areas from off-road vehicle use," is not an attempt to usurp Utahns' authority over these lands, because they have no more authority than any other Americans.

Instead, the letter is a response to well-founded fears that Utahns and others who ride their OHVs over public lands are, as a group of former BLM managers has said, "the greatest threat" to the natural wonders of Utah, and, we would add, to Utah's growing tourism boom.

The number of off-road vehicles driven into national forests has increased to about 11 million visits annually. Where people once hiked or back-packed and hunters rode horses, now all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and four-wheel-drive trucks criss-cross the landscape.

BLM statistics show more than 5,400 law enforcement incidents in 2005 involved OHV riders. The next-highest category of incidents, at 900, involved drug use. More worrisome is the number of OHV users who ride roughshod over fragile terrain but are not caught.

The letter to Kempthorne specifically cites the threat to cultural and archaeological features. Motorized vehicles make it possible for recreationists - and vandals - to cut new trails for quick access to these treasures that once were protected by their isolation.

Which all begs the question why Cannon can't see, or won't concede, the difference between interfering in another state's business and addressing an issue critical to the preservation of resources that belong to all Americans.

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