November 5, 2013
The following is a media release from the BRC – re-published with permission.
BLUERIBBON COALITION, INC.
CONTACT: Paul Turcke
RICHFIELD BLM TRAVEL PLAN SUFFERS SETBACK
SALT LAKE CITY, UT (November 5, 2013) — The U.S. Court for the District of Utah yesterday issued a decision that declared certain aspects of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Richfield Field Office vehicle Travel Plan unlawful. BLM spent over six years preparing the Plan, which was released in October, 2008. The Plan covered 2.1 million acres in south-central Utah, and substantially reduced vehicle access, nearly eliminating “open” designations and restricting vehicle travel to a reduced network of designated routes.
Despite these restrictions, a coalition of preservationist groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance challenged the Travel Plan. Many of their arguments were rejected, but the Court ruled that BLM failed to adequately tie its route designations to the “minimization criteria” first announced in a pair of forty year-old Executive Orders, and failed to conduct on-the-ground inventories for archeological resources in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act.
“We are, of course, disappointed in this result,” stated Brian Hawthorne, Utah Policy Advisor with the BlueRibbon Coalition, an access advocacy group. Hawthorne noted the on the ground effects of the ruling remain to be seen because the Court has yet to decide how the BLM should remedy the 2008 Travel Plan. “Our work here is far from finished and begins with encouraging the Court to shape a properly limited remedy that allows the BLM to efficiently finish its business,” Hawthorne concluded.
Numerous parties intervened in the case to respond to the preservationist claims, including the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC).
This decision comes in a long line of battles over BLM access management in Utah. A 2000 lawsuit by SUWA was dismissed on a motion filed by BRC, and that ruling was affirmed by a 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2004. A copy of yesterday’s decision can be viewed at http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/329-Memorandum_Decision_and_Order-11.4.13.pdf.
The Court will accept further briefing on the question of remedy. The litigation schedule contemplates now moving to the preservationists’ challenges to five other Utah Plans, which include the Moab, Vernal, Price, Monticello and Kanab field offices.