KANAB, Utah — The Bureau of Land Management has tripled the number of highly desirable and highly limited permits to explore one of southern Utah’s most beautiful geologic features.
Less than half the size of a football field, the geological feature known as The Wave boasts some of the most striking geologic sandstone formations on earth.
“People come from all over the world. Just as many people come from outside the United States as in the United States,” Kanab Touring Company owner Cory Unsworth said.
Unsworth is concerned that increasing permits from 20 to 64 per day will shatter the solitude and peace felt at the site, even if it means an increase in potential customers.
“It’s a unique experience, and I think putting 64 people in The Wave at a time will definitely impact the individual experience and almost take away from the value of it,” Unsworth said.
While the lottery is meant to protect the natural environment, an increase in public demand propelled the decision.
The BLM reports more than 200,000 people applied for hiking permits in 2018. Fewer than four percent were successful.
“We probably get four or five calls a month for that area,” Kane County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Alan Alldredge said.
While beautiful, the environment can be severe. At least four people died from heatstroke at or near the wave since 2013.
“It does increase some problems because the more people you've got out there, the more chance you’ve got for sprained ankles, for heat-related injuries. Things like that are still going to require some kind of a response,” Alldredge said.
On the bright side, more people means more help overall on the trail, Alldredge added.
Unsworth is trying to stay positive that the permit expansion will be good for Kanab.
“I guess if it brings more people into town, it will be good,” he said.
Moving forward, the local BLM office has the option to increase or decrease permits as needed.