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New Study On Recreation In The Sheeprock Mountains Shows Unusual Use

Lake in the background with a few trees and grass, a small dirt track, and a white camper near the lake.
Utah Outdoor Activities

The Sheeprock Mountains are a 24-mile long mountain range located in southern Tooele County and northern Juab County. These West Desert mountains are managed by federal, state and private land managers for a variety of uses.

"Not just for recreation, recreation isn’t the only use out there. It is managed for grazing, there’s wild horses and burros out there. It is managed for one of the state’s only populations of endangered sage grouse. So it is managed for a variety of different uses," said Jordan Smith, director of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University.

Smith and his colleagues surveyed Sheeprock Mountain visitors about their recreation use to better understand how people are using this natural space.

“It is really important to understand what the human use is on that landscape when we consider the dominant human use, and the most human use that could have the largest disturbance on the ecosystem is recreationists.”  

The number of visitors to the Sheeprock Mountains has been increasing.

"What we actually found was only about 40 percent of the visitors were bringing in off-highway vehicles ... The other proportion were coming out there either to fish, to shoot, just to picnic, just to be with their friends and families," said Smith. 

And according to Smith, this pattern of outdoor recreation use for areas like Utah’s Sheeprock Mountains is unusual.

"It is not the typical use that we think of as far as outdoor recreation in western Utah," said Smith. "It is a new composition of use blending those traditional uses off-highway vehicles use with the more traditional outdoor recreation opportunities that are being desired by the people that are moving closer and closer to these public and private lands."

The Sheeprock Mountains is a multiple use recreation area.  Smith and his team hope that by sharing this information about recreation use with the multiple federal and state agencies that manage the Sheeprock Mountains, these agencies can better allocate resources based on multi-recreational use.