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Possible closure of trails to motorized vehicles in Grand Co. sparks debate

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Posted at 10:03 PM, Mar 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-18 11:31:30-04

MOAB, Utah -- Moab is known as one of the best places in the country for recreational vehicles, like jeeps and ATVs, but now there is talk about shutting down more than 100 acres of trails.

This issue is called the Public Lands Initiative. Hundreds of people attended a meeting in Grand County Tuesday. On one side you have mostly residents of Grand County and their families who have been riding and enjoying these trails for decades. While on the other side you have environmentalists who want to preserve as much of this land as they can.

"I want to be able to continue sharing my heritage with my children and carry on our family traditions. I want our lands to remain open and assessable to everyone to every type of user," said Moab resident Lisa Ceniceros.

Ceniceros said for generations her family has not only been enjoying, but living off of the trails that make Moab such a popular destination. According to the county, tourism supports 47 percent of private jobs in Grand County.

"I'm a big advocate of off-road recreation because that's the way I'm able to see this area. I can't go hiking, I can't go rock climbing, I can't go mountain biking. If I want to see these areas I got to go out in a motorized recreational vehicle," said David Adams.

Adams is in a wheel chair. He said limiting motorized use on trails is like discrimination. Under the Public Lands Initiative, 150 miles of trails inside the county would be restricted to motorized use.

Conservationists say residents need to understand it's for their own good.

"The best protection against climate change, global warming and so on is to have public lands," said Moab resident Marc Thomas. "You are seeing a lot of bitterness with old timers because the demographics are changing."

Under the proposal the mining industry would also be impacted and possibly wiped out. That could mean a loss of jobs and revenue, but conservationists say it also means an increase in your health.

"I think protecting our snow pack, protecting from more drilling, from more gas production and just protect that watershed, and that source is going to be very critical for the health of this community," said Kate Anderson.

Grand County is one of eight counties in eastern Utah that will be affected by this proposal. Each of these counties will make recommendations that will be passed onto representatives at the federal level, led by congressman Rob Bishop, who will make the final decision, most likely by June.