Move To Change Access To Fiery Furnace In Arches National Park Draws Ire

A move Superintendent Kate Cannon believes will lead to better management of visitation to the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park has drawn the ire of guiding businesses and a member of Congress, who see the changes as unnecessary and economically crippling to the guides and damaging to the unique geologic niche of the park.

A red rock maze of fins, arches, and canyons in the heart of the park, the Fiery Furnace long has been a highlight for many visitors to Arches in southeastern Utah. Up until 2008 or 2009, according to the superintendent, 125 people were able to enter the Fiery Furnace each day: 50 went with ranger-guided tours, and the remaining 75 were individual parties that succeeded in landing a permit (currently $6 per person 13 and older, $3 for those aged 5-12). But then, 25 permits were taken away from the general public and distributed to commercial guiding services, explained Superintendent Cannon.

Since that option was added, the number of guiding businesses holding Commercial Use Authorizations (CUAs) for leading hikes in the park rose dramatically, to nearly 90 today, she said.

“When you get that many people with the potential (to seek permits), there gets to be competition between the different companies. And it gets pretty hard to manage. There’s not really a good way to manage it,” she said. “We’ve just manufactured an untenable management scheme. I don’t think when the decision was made to start with CUAs we ever thought that it would get so large that there’s no reasonable way to fairly distribute those few spaces.”

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