Off Road Vehicles Archives - Page 7 of 11


  • November 4th, 2013

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    November 4, 2013

     

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Court Strikes Down Controversial BLM Land Use Plan
    BLM plan designated thousands of miles of ORV routes, placing iconic western landscapes at risk

    SALT LAKE CITY Today the United States District Court for the District of Utah struck down significant parts of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Resource Management Plan for the Richfield Field Office, putting the brakes on a Bush-era management scheme that prioritized motorized recreation over all else.

    A coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and Earthjustice had challenged the plan (the “Richfield RMP”) in an attempt to bring balanced management to Utah’s spectacular public lands.  The plan developed by BLM threatened world-renown southern Utah wilderness landscapes like the Dirty Devil Canyon complex (including Butch Cassidy’s infamous hideout, Robber’s Roost), the Henry Mountains (the last mountain range to be mapped in the lower 48 states) and Factory Butte.  See photos here.

    Specifically, Judge Kimball:

    • Reversed BLM’s off-road vehicle (ORV) trail designations because BLM failed to minimize the destructive impacts of ORV use on streams, native plants, wildlife, soils and irreplaceable cultural sites and artifacts, as required by law.
    • Directed BLM to complete intensive, on-the-ground surveys for historic and cultural resources before authorizing ORV use.
    • Held that BLM’s failure to designate the Henry Mountains as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern—which would have given heightened protection to its bison herds and large expanses of remote, spectacularly scenic lands — violated federal law.
    • Ordered BLM to reevaluate information supporting the designation of Happy Canyon and the spring areas of Buck and Pasture Canyons for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

    Under the Richfield RMP, BLM had designated over 4,200 miles of dirt roads and trails, enough miles to drive from Atlanta to Anchorage, for ORV vehicle use despite evidence of environmental damage and conflicts with other public lands visitors.

    “This landmark decision is a resounding rejection of the BLM’s mismanagement of Utah’s stunning public lands,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “The Richfield RMP wrongly prioritized ORV use over all other uses of the public lands and neglected streams and special places worthy of protection.  The court didn’t mince words in its ruling that this violated federal environmental and historic laws.”

    “Utah’s remarkable public lands deserve better than what they are getting from the BLM,” remarked David Garbett, a SUWA staff attorney.  “This decision is a first step in improving that situation.”

    The impact of this decision raises serious questions about the legality of five other BLM management plans in the eastern half of the state of Utah that suffer from similar legal flaws.  The Richfield RMP is just one of six land use plans—covering more than 11 million acres of eastern and southern Utah—that the Interior Department finalized in October 2008.  Together, these RMPs were a last-ditch attempt by the Bush administration to leave their stamp on Utah’s landscape by prioritizing ORVs and energy development over protecting Utah’s uniquely magnificent red rock canyon country. Conservationists have challenged all six plans in court.  The Richfield RMP is the first of the six to be litigated.

    “It’s a new day for Utah’s Red Rock country,” said Heidi McIntosh of Earthjustice.  “This far-reaching decision means BLM can no longer dismiss the value of wilderness, scenery, wildlife, and areas of cultural importance to Native Americans in favor of destructive ORV use.”

    “This decision sends an irrefutable message to the BLM about the need for responsible management of the 11 million acres of public lands covered by all 6 challenged plans,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel for The Wilderness Society. “The BLM should heed this as a call to action and move forward now to address these flaws in all of the plans – minimizing damage from off-road vehicles and protecting natural and cultural values.”

    “We’re thrilled by the district court’s decision,” said Bill Hedden, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Trust.  “BLM’s refusal to conduct on-the-ground inventories for cultural resources that are being damaged and destroyed from off-road vehicle use was shocking.  Federal law requires BLM to do more to protect these irreplaceable cultural treasures and we’re pleased that the judge ordered BLM to do so.”

     

    Background information on the Richfield RMP can be found on SUWA’s website.  Photographs of the proposed wilderness areas at risk in the Richfield field office are also available.  In 2008, the Salt Lake Tribune and New York Times panned the Richfield RMP, raising many of the same flaws identified in the court’s decision.

    The conservation groups challenging the BLM’s 2008 land use plans in Utah include the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Utah Rivers Council, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Rocky Mountain Wild.

    The groups are represented by attorneys Stephen Bloch and David Garbett of SUWA; Heidi McIntosh, Robin Cooley and Alison Flint of Earthjustice; and by Robert Wiygul of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside.

  • July 30th, 2013

    Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
    1. The Utah state legislature’s anti-federal government campaign hits a brick wall called the U.S. Constitution.
    2. Take action for wild Utah this summer!
    3. SUWA’s annual Backyard Bash celebrates our community of citizen activists.
    4. The BLM has a lot of bad ideas for Utah public lands.
    5. Our challenge to a Bush-era land use plan is finally heard in court.

    Read More »
  • July 3rd, 2013

    We sound like a broken record lately, but we’re just the messenger. The BLM’s Monticello field office has announced a proposal to add more off-road vehicle (ORV) routes to the 3,000-plus miles of routes in San Juan County that were designated in the 2008 Resource Management Plan and Travel Plan (RMP/TP).

    Read More »
  • July 1st, 2013

    The BLM’s Monticello Field Office recently capitulated to pressure from San Juan County and ceded control and management of public lands for four rights-of-way for new off-road vehicle (ORV) trails on Cedar Mesa.

    Please tell the Utah BLM State Director to instead defend the public’s interest in retaining management and control of our public lands.

    Lower Grand Gulch, copyright Robert Fillmore.

    Lower Grand Gulch, copyright Robert Fillmore.

    Recall that in 2008 the BLM designated routes across public lands in southern Utah, effectively ending the out-dated and ridiculous policy of unrestricted cross-country travel.  Although the BLM’s travel plan for public lands in San Juan County isn’t perfect (SUWA has a pending legal challenge to the travel plan in federal court), it is a big improvement over the unmitigated chaos of cross-country travel.

    However, even though the BLM designated more than 3,000 miles of routes and trails in San Juan County, it was nevertheless too few for the fanatical road cultists there.  And, inexplicably, the BLM rolled over, giving the county rights-of-way to build new ORV trails on Cedar Mesa.  The new trails will connect ORV routes on the east side of Cedar Mesa with routes on the west side of Cedar Mesa, thereby allowing ORV riders to “travel back and forth” between the two areas more conveniently!

    Wrongheaded

    Two of the new rights-of-way bisect lands in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, places even the BLM agrees are of wilderness caliber.  The BLM’s decision to allow new ORV routes in these areas effectively negates the wilderness and roadless character of large tracts of land.  It would have been bad enough for the BLM to merely designate and add these new ORV trails on Cedar Mesa to the agency’s travel plan.  But it defies logic why the BLM would hand over management and control of public lands to the county by granting rights-of-way for these ORV trails.  What’s more, these rights-of-way can be renewed after 20 years, ad infinitum, effectively giving the county ownership of these routes in perpetuity.

    It boils down to this: The BLM is legally responsible for protecting archaeology and natural resources on our public lands; beyond argument, ORV use results in increased vandalism and looting of archaeological sites, degrades water quality and stream functioning, increases soil erosion and fragments wildlife.  With this in mind, it makes little sense to allow San Juan County to chainsaw old-growth juniper trees to bulldoze new routes across roadless wildlands in areas with some of the richest archaeology on the planet.  Yet that’s exactly what the BLM has done.

    There’s more

    San Juan County has additional ORV rights-of-way requests in the queue – one in Indian Creek and the other in Recapture Canyon.  Please ask the Utah State BLM Director to stand up to the pressure from San Juan County and deny the county’s request for ORV rights-of-way in Indian Creek and Recapture Canyon.