Off Road Vehicles Archives


  • January 19th, 2017

    Petition asks administrative appeals board to ‘stay’ BLM decision to designate Indian Creek ATV trail

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    January 19, 2017

    Indian Creek (c) Tim Peterson, flown by Lighthawk.

    Indian Creek (c) Tim Peterson, flown by Lighthawk.

    Contact:
    Kya Marienfeld, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 573-228-1061
    Tim Peterson, Grand Canyon Trust, 801-550-9861

    MOAB – Last Friday a coalition of conservation groups (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) appealed a controversial decision by the BLM’s Monticello field office to approve new ATV trails and parking areas in the heart of the popular Indian Creek region and within the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument.  The decision, which came only days before President Obama’s monument proclamation, was made without any opportunity for public review or comment.

    “It is outrageous that BLM would make this decision without seeking public input,” said Kya Marienfeld, Moab resident and Wildlands Field Advocate for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This area, like the rest of the new Bears Ears National Monument, is full of irreplaceable cultural resources and is an internationally treasured rock-climbing destination as well as the gateway into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This highly controversial decision would extend significant ATV use into a part of the region that currently does not see that kind of off-road vehicle traffic. “

    “Our local members have visited the site of the proposed project and we can only oppose the creation of this unnecessary and undesirable ATV trail,” said Wayne Hoskisson from the Sierra Club Utah Chapter. “Lavender and Davis Canyons will see a huge increase in noisy, motorized recreation. Even Canyonlands National Park criticized the route for this reason. The BLM wasted ten years trying to justify this route. They should stop now especially since it impacts the Bears Ears National Monument.”

    Under consideration for years, BLM previously approved construction of the Indian Creek ATV project in February 2015. At that time, the same coalition of conservation groups challenged BLM’s decision and won a stay from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, which later vacated and remanded the decision back to BLM (at its request) for additional analysis. Despite this order from the Board, BLM’s newest decision on the ATV project repeats the same mistakes as its initial approval. The new trails and associated parking areas authorized by BLM this time around will bisect an area that BLM has already determined is a wilderness-caliber landscape, and will result in the disqualification of over 900 acres from potential future designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

    In addition, BLM’s designation of new ATV trails in Indian Creek directly contradicts the new Bears Ears National Monument Proclamation, which calls for a full planning process before designating new roads or trails. Under the Proclamation, new routes like the Indian Creek ATV trails and parking areas may be designated only for purposes of public safety or for protecting the fragile resources the Monument safeguards.

    “Why would BLM rush to expand off-road vehicle use in Indian Creek just days before Bears Ears National Monument was designated?” asked Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director for Grand Canyon Trust. “Indian Creek is a treasure – the 80 year effort to protect it was successful because of its cultural importance. Now is the time to plan for the future considering all the values for which Bears Ears National Monument was protected – not to sneak in more off-roading just under the wire.”

    The BLM’s Environmental Assessment can be found here.

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  • August 24th, 2015

    It’s a sad day for ATV “enthusiasts” in San Juan County and it’s back to the drawing board for the Monticello BLM.

    On August 10, 2015, pursuant to a motion filed by the BLM, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (“Board”) issued an order vacating the BLM’s approval of the Indian Creek ATV trail. The order invalidates the Indian Creek ATV trail and remands the issue back to the agency.

    Instead of defending the validity of the project, as it has done for nearly four years, the BLM finally admitted that its environmental analysis (EA) was illegal and asked the Board to vacate its decision accordingly. Moving forward, the BLM needs to either conduct significant additional analysis of potential adverse impacts from the project, or wisely put this irresponsible idea it to rest once and for all.

    Even in the face of extensive public opposition to the project – in the form of thousands of comments from individual quiet recreationists to the National Park Service – the Monticello BLM has proven itself incapable of standing up to the bully tactics of San Juan County and simply saying “no.” Instead, in a contortion performance that would impress the most seasoned acrobat, the Monticello BLM has revised its project proposal not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times in as many years. It’s simply a level of effort rarely witnessed by those of us who follow the BLM’s actions.

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Crusher Bartlett

    If you recall, we have been fighting this project since the BLM released its first draft analysis in 2011. After the BLM issued its final decision in 2014, SUWA (along with the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) filed an appeal with the Board and obtained a stay that prohibited the BLM from implementing the project pending the Board’s ultimate decision on the appeal.

    It likely goes without saying, but the Monticello BLM has wasted significant public resources in a futile effort to approve an unwise and irresponsible ATV trail. Instead of going back to the drawing board for additional analysis in what is nothing more than an absurd effort to capitulate to the childish wants of ATV-crazed San Juan County, the BLM should once and for all declare this project finished. Dead on (re)arrival. It’s time to stand up to the San Juan County bullies, and stop wasting precious agency time and resources trying to push through a project that is, and has always been, a terrible idea.

  • June 3rd, 2015

    The Interior Board of Land Appeals (“Board”) recently issued an order prohibiting construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail pending appeal. The order – triggered by a “Petition for Stay” filed by SUWA, the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and the Great Old Broads for Wilderness – prohibits construction of 6.4 miles of new ATV trail and three associated parking areas in Indian Creek until the Board rules on the legal merits of our administrative appeal.

    In its ruling, the Board validated our argument that agency actions resulting in a permanent loss of BLM-identified wilderness character lands constitutes “irreparable harm” and determined that there is a “sufficient likelihood of success” on at least a portion of our legal claims.

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Crusher Bartlett

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Indian Creek. Copyright Crusher Bartlett.

    The BLM’s Monticello field office irresponsibly approved construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail in February of 2015 (see our Spring 2015 newsletter, p. 15). Originally proposed by the pro-motorized recreation, anti-conservation leaders of San Juan County, the purpose of the ATV trail is to facilitate increased motorized use in the Indian Creek corridor by linking the proposed trail to an existing ATV trail network. If implemented, the new trail would result in increased ATV use in and near Lavender Canyon, Davis Canyon, and Bridger Jack Mesa – areas bordering Canyonlands National Park that currently see very little motorized recreational use. What’s more, the trail would bisect an area that the BLM itself identified as possessing wilderness characteristics and that is proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    The Indian Creek corridor is the gateway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and is world-renowned for its abundance of cultural resources and quiet recreation opportunities. We are hopeful that the Board will ultimately rule in a manner consistent with protecting this irreplaceable landscape for future generations. We’ll keep you posted.

  • February 17th, 2015

    Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that the current San Rafael Desert Motorized Travel Planning process should not result in expanded off-road vehicle use in the San Rafael Desert. Click here to send your comments by February 21, 2015.

    SanRafaelDesert(2)_RayBloxham

    San Rafael Desert. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Utah’s San Rafael Desert, included within the San Rafael River, Sweetwater Reef, Flat Tops and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness units, is a remote, undeveloped, and sublime landscape. Located east of the San Rafael Reef and expanding to Labyrinth Canyon, the San Rafael Desert is rich in archaeological sites and provides habitat for species such as pronghorn antelope, kit fox, and the burrowing owl.

    The BLM’s Price Field Office is in the early stages of motorized travel planning for the San Rafael Desert. Generally, SUWA is supportive of the BLM taking a hard look at motorized travel designations on public lands, but nearly half of the current travel planning area was already analyzed by the agency as part of its 2003 San Rafael Route Designation Plan. That plan, although not perfect, involved a lengthy public process and survived both administrative appeal and litigation. SUWA supported the plan and even intervened on behalf of the BLM in those legal proceedings.

    While it’s unclear why the BLM is using limited agency resources on motorized travel planning in areas that only recently underwent the same analysis, what is clear is that the motorized community sees this as an opportunity to create new off-road vehicle trails and to re-open areas and trails that were specifically restricted from motorized use. These include the Junes Bottom area and route proliferation along the rims of Labyrinth Canyon, through many unique dune environments, and within culturally-rich canyons such as Cottonwood Wash.

    Labyrinth Canyon

    Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    We know that any rollback of the current travel plan for the San Rafael Desert will result in increased adverse impacts to wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and wilderness-quality lands. This approach directly contradicts the BLM’s obligation to minimize impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

    Please tell the BLM, by February 21, 2015, that the current San Rafael Desert Travel Planning process should not result in increased off-road vehicle routes in the San Rafael Desert and that the BLM should minimize the impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

    Thank you for your support in protecting this wilderness-quality landscape.

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