Off Road Vehicles


  • April 22nd, 2021

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a travel management plan for the iconic Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area outside of Moab—a plan that will determine where off-road vehicle (ORV) use is allowed in this world-renowned area for decades to come.

    Please tell the BLM to keep motorized trails out of sensitive areas in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region.

    Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Home to irreplaceable cultural and historic resources, important wildlife habitat, and unmatched quiet recreational opportunities, the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region is a magnificent area of Utah’s backcountry. It encompasses the internationally-recognized Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River, as well as its many side canyons including Mineral, Hell Roaring, Spring, and Ten Mile Canyons.

    The area’s unobstructed views, soaring redrock cliffs, and Green River corridor provide endless world-class opportunities for hikers, river runners, canyoneers, climbers, bikers, photographers, and campers. Unfortunately, this area has also experienced a dramatic increase in motorized recreation over the past decade, with ORV noise and dust disproportionately impacting the majority of public land users.

    Federal law requires the BLM to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. The agency’s current travel plan—pushed through in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration—blanketed the area with ORV routes, prioritizing motorized recreation at the expense of all other public land uses. The high density of ORV routes in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area means there are few areas to escape the whine of all-terrain vehicles (including the now ubiquitous “utility” models known as UTVs) and dirt bikes.

    Currently, 94% of the lands within the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area are within a half mile of a designated ORV route. And less than 1.5% of the lands in this area are two miles or more from an ORV route. As a result, motorized vehicle use is damaging important soil and riparian resources, priceless cultural resources, significant wildlife habitat, and quiet recreational opportunities.

    This travel plan will have a long-lasting impact on the future of this region by determining where ORVs will be able to travel, and in turn what areas will be managed for the protection of other resources and values such as wildlife, solitude, and non-motorized recreation.

    The BLM is currently in the initial “scoping” phase of its travel planning process, which identifies issues that must be considered. It is vital that the agency hears from the public that the current route network is unacceptable, and that significant route reductions are needed in order to protect public land resources and balance motorized and non-motorized recreation for decades to come.

    The BLM should ensure access to trailheads, scenic overlooks, and recreational opportunities, but it must also protect the reason people want to drive here: to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and other sensitive or inappropriate areas in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region.

    The most helpful comments mention specific trails (by name or number) or areas; how you enjoy hiking, camping, and other non-motorized pursuits in the area; and that motorized use in these places has conflicted with your particular use or enjoyment.

    The BLM is accepting comments through April 26, 2021. Be sure to make your voice heard.

    Thank you for taking action!

  • February 24th, 2021

    The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments for a new travel management plan for the spectacular San Rafael Swell. With the designation of new wilderness areas in the Swell in 2019, and with the BLM’s poor track record of over-designating new routes through this kind of planning, your comments are important. SUWA staff attorney Laura Peterson rejoins us to talk about the San Rafael Swell Travel Management planning process and what you can do.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and other sensitive or inappropriate areas in the San Rafael Swell.

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  • February 23rd, 2021

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently developing a travel management plan for Utah’s spectacular San Rafael Swell and your input is urgently needed, especially if you’ve visited the area and don’t want to see it become a motorized vehicle sacrifice zone.

    Home to irreplaceable cultural and historical resources, important wildlife habitat, and unmatched recreational opportunities, the San Rafael Swell encompasses popular destinations such as the San Rafael Reef, Mexican Mountain, Buckhorn Draw, Tomsich Butte, and Muddy Creek as well as newly-designated wilderness areas and the San Rafael Swell Recreation Area.

    The Swell’s sinuous slot canyons, soaring redrock cliffs, and prominent buttes provide endless opportunities for hikers, canyoneers, river runners, climbers, bikers, photographers, campers, and other visitors. The BLM’s travel plan will have a long-lasting impact on the future of this area by determining where motorized vehicles will be able to travel.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and other sensitive or inappropriate areas in the San Rafael Swell.

    San Rafael Swell. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Federal law requires the BLM to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. Despite this, the agency is considering designating over a thousand miles of new routes in the heart of the San Rafael Swell. These new routes include wash bottoms, cow paths, and simple lines on a map. Inundating the Swell with new motorized vehicle routes would forever change this iconic area from one with diverse recreational opportunities to essentially a motorized playground.

    The BLM is currently in the “scoping” phase of its travel planning process, which identifies issues the agency must consider in that process. It is vital that the agency hears from members of the public that blanketing this area with new motorized vehicle routes is unacceptable.

    The BLM should ensure access to trailheads, scenic overlooks, and recreational opportunities, but it must also protect the very reason people want to drive to such remote places: to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the San Rafael Swell.

    Click here to submit your comments to the BLM today.

    The most helpful comments talk about specific areas or trails (by name or number); how you enjoy hiking, camping, and other non-motorized pursuits in the area; and how motorized use in these places has negatively impacted your experience or could do so in the future if more vehicle trails are designated.

    The BLM is accepting comments through March 3, 2021. Be sure to make your voice heard!

  • January 25th, 2021

    State of Utah’s sprawling litigation claiming more than 12,000 dirt paths and stream bottoms as “highways” threatens redrock wilderness across the state

    Contacts: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Phil Hanceford, The Wilderness Society, 303.815.3158, phil_hanceford@tws.org

    Brian Fletcher, Stanford Law School Supreme Court Clinic, 917.453.9477, bfletcher@stanford.edu 

    Salt Lake City – Today, the US Supreme Court denied requests by the US Solicitor General and the State of Utah to overturn a 2019 decision that granted two conservation groups, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society, the right to intervene in a sweeping series of lawsuits that threatens to riddle the state’s wildest public lands with roads.

    In what are known as petitions for writ of certiorari, the United States and Utah attempted to overturn a decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals by contending that the conservation groups’ undeniable interests in southern Utah’s remarkable red rock wilderness were insufficient to permit intervention in the litigation. The Supreme Court denied the petitions in an unsigned order issued this morning.

    “We’re pleased the Supreme Court denied these petitions and look forward to vigorously defending our members’ and the United States’ interests in the wildest, most remote corners of southern Utah,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The State’s litigation, claiming highways in stream bottoms and cow paths, has always been about who controls federal public lands in Utah, with the goal to riddle these landscapes with roads and make them ineligible for congressional Wilderness designation. This absolutely cuts to the core of our mission.”

    A State of Utah R.S. 2477 claim in the Paria River streambed (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Paria-Hackberry Wilderness Study Area). Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    “We are focused on using science and common sense to protect our land, our air, and our water for the health of our communities and for future generations,” said Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director at The Wilderness Society. “Today’s decision not to review our participation in this important case recognized that our input is valuable when decisions are made about the impacts development could have on our shared public lands. There are appropriate places for roads, but cutting through Utah’s spectacular red rock wildlands and creek beds are not those places.”

    The conservation groups had sought to intervene in the litigation to defend the United States’ title in so-called R.S. 2477 rights of way, referring to an obscure provision in the 1866 Mining Act that authorized the construction of highways across the western frontier to support settlement and development. Utah has weaponized this long-repealed law to file more than 20 lawsuits alleging more than 12,000 rights of way totaling more than 32,000 miles across federal public lands in the state. Rather than constitute any kind of a reasonable rural transportation network, the vast majority of these claimed highways are in fact unmaintained dirt two-tracks, cow paths and stream bottoms. Thousands of miles of Utah’s claimed highways are located in national parks, national monuments, designated wilderness areas, and other wild Utah lands.

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society are represented by Jeffrey Fisher, Brian Fletcher and Pamela Karlan at Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; Chad Derum and Trevor Lee at the Salt Lake City law firm Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar; and Stephen Bloch and Michelle White at the Utah-based Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.