Off Road Vehicles Archives


  • October 5th, 2017

    Do you want to hear the sound of helicopters in Utah’s backcountry? Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters wants to fly wealthy tourists into wilderness quality areas, using a loophole that would allow them to land on state lands inside a Wilderness Study Area near Canyonlands National Park. The National Park Service has raised concerns. SUWA is fighting the proposal.

    The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, adjacent to one of the proposed helicopter landing sites. NPS photo by Neal Herbert.

    The Moab Times-Independent reports on the latest issue hovering above Moab — and Utah’s wild lands:

    A local helicopter company’s plans to charter flights to state lands within a federal Wilderness Study Area (WSA) near Canyonlands National Park has met some pushback from conservation groups and others who cite potential impacts regarding noise and solitude.

    Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters is currently seeking a right-of-entry permit with Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) for transportation and charter flights on four state-owned land parcels.

    These state parcels — arranged in a “checkerboard” pattern across the map — are within or adjacent to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) WSA. One parcel sits directly adjacent to Horseshoe Canyon, home to the “Great Gallery” rock art site in Canyonlands National Park.

    Kya Marienfeld, wildlands attorney at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), said this right-of-entry application reveals how differently state and federal lands are managed.

    “This [WSA] designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness,” Marienfeld said. “Aircraft lands are not permitted in these Wilderness Study Areas, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands.”

    According to Marienfeld, SUWA has expressed concerns that these helicopter flights would have a “terrible effect” on the wilderness characteristics of the area, which include solitude and remoteness.

    “It’s noise and the effects on solitude. Helicopters are loud, and this area being so remote … it’s pretty untrammeled because it’s a little ways out,” she said.

    Click here to read the full article.

    More on Pinnacle’s plans:

    • Each of the three proposed landing sites are within a Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which is undeveloped public land with outstanding naturalness, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and a landscape largely unaffected by human activity.  This designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness.
    • Aircraft landings are not permitted in these WSAs, which are managed as wilderness by the BLM, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands. In essence, the state can do anything it wants with them, all with an eye on turning a profit.
    • This is exactly why the helicopter operator is seeking to take advantage of these SITLA sections and land on state-managed lands, even though tourists would be flying in with the purpose of experiencing the supreme public lands that surround each SITLA landing site.
    • One of the proposed landing sites is immediately adjacent to the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park, which contains some of the most pristine and fragile rock art panels in the world, including the famous “Great Gallery.” This entire NPS unit is managed as an archaeological district and access is carefully maintained to preserve the exceptional rock art.
    • The only people this new undertaking will benefit is a few extremely wealthy tourists, at the expense of locals who know the Robber’s Roost and Horseshoe Canyon area as a place that is well-worth the trek precisely because of its superb remoteness. Flying rich tourists in for day-trips not only cheapens the wilderness experience, but also ruins the solitude that makes this location special.

    Stay tuned for ways you can get involved…..

  • May 31st, 2017

    Longstanding litigation over six BLM-Utah land use plans and travel management plans brought to a close

    An order issued today by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit clears the way for BLM-Utah to begin implementing a comprehensive settlement agreement that will result in the completion of 13 new off-highway vehicle travel management plans over the next 8 years across eastern and southern Utah.  The settlement agreement marks the end to longstanding litigation filed in 2008 by a coalition of conservation groups which challenged six land use plans and travel plans that were completed at the end of the George W. Bush administration and designated a spider web of approximately 20,000 miles of routes where off-highway vehicles could drive on federal public lands.  The settlement requires BLM to revisit these decisions across more than 6 million acres of federal public lands, minimize the impacts of off-highway vehicles on cultural resources and wilderness landscapes that provide opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation and monitor for illegal use.

    BLM-Utah will also consider the designation of three areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs) and update and prepare air quality-related reports and studies that will inform future BLM decisions regarding oil and gas development.  The settlement agreement can be viewed here.

    The settlement agreement was reviewed and approved by a federal district court judge in Salt Lake City.  In his order approving the settlement agreement, senior district court Judge Dale A. Kimball stated that the settlement “is a fair and lawful resolution of years of litigation” and is consistent with applicable federal law.

    The BLM-Utah plans at issue guide land management decisions across more than 10 million acres of federal public lands in eastern and southern Utah, including some of the nation’s most remarkable red rock wilderness landscapes.

    • “With the settlement agreement in place we will work to make sure that BLM-Utah’s new travel management plans fully account for and protect Utah’s unique cultural resources and red rock wilderness lands,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The negotiations leading up to the settlement agreement were hard fought and contentious.  In the end, we came to a place that provided sufficient certainty to the conservation groups that BLM would take seriously its responsibilities to minimize the impacts of off-road vehicle use on all public resources, including wilderness.”
    • “This proposed settlement is good news for Utah’s iconic public lands, including the lands surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Dinosaur National Monument,” said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice Attorney representing the conservation groups. “BLM must take a fresh look at where it will allow off-highway vehicles to drive, this time with an eye towards protecting the very things that make Utah’s redrock country so special–its wildness, opportunities for solitude, and irreplaceable archaeological sites.”
    • “These amazing lands deserve thoughtful management for uses other than motorized recreation and oil and gas development, which are prioritized in the current plans,” said Nada Culver, Director the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society. “We hope to get to work on updated plans and management decisions once the settlement is approved.”

    Photos of proposed wilderness areas in new “travel management areas” contemplated by the settlement agreement can be found here.

    The following conservation groups are plaintiffs to the litigation and parties to the settlement agreement: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Rocky Mountain Wild, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Utah Rivers Council.

    The parties to the settlement agreement include the conservation groups, the off-highway vehicle group-intervenors, and the Bureau of Land Management.  Several intervenors, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and four oil and gas companies, do not oppose the agreement.

    The conservation groups were represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, SUWA, NRDC, and the law firm of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside.

  • March 14th, 2017

    Great news in the fight for Bears Ears!

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

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

    In mid-March, the Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) issued an order granting SUWA’s Petition for Stay in our recent appeal fighting new ATV trails in Indian Creek, inside Bears Ears National Monument.

    Finding that SUWA and our partners Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Grand Canyon Trust, and the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club would be irreparably harmed by allowing construction of new motorized trails in Indian Creek, the IBLA concluded that the public interest would be best served by immediately staying the construction of the trails “to prevent harm to the environment and preserve the status quo.”

    This order is the first step in ensuring the monument is protected from increasing motorized use and it prohibits BLM from beginning construction until the IBLA has ruled on the merits of our appeal, for which they have already said we have a high likelihood of success when they granted our petition for stay.

    This is an exciting victory for wilderness, and is the first time an administrative body or court has addressed the legal effect of the Bears Ears National Monument Proclamation, which calls for careful consideration and analysis when managing the spectacular and irreplaceable resources within its boundaries. See a report on our appeal here, and read the IBLA’s order granting our Petition for Stay here.

  • 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.

    ###

Page 1 of 912345...Last »