State of Utah and Off-Roading Activists File Appeals Against BLM’s Travel Plan

BLM’s Plan to Close 300 Miles of Trails Faces Strong Opposition

The state of Utah and a group of off-roading activists have both filed separate appeals challenging a recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) travel plan that would close over 300 miles of dirt trails and roads to motorized use near Moab. The plan, known as the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges travel management plan, was announced in September and has been met with strong opposition.

The state of Utah filed a notice of appeal on October 27th, accusing the BLM of federal overreach. Utah Governor Spencer Cox stated, “The BLM’s plan to close trails in this treasured region is completely unacceptable. These are historic routes that have been used by the public for generations, and we won’t tolerate this kind of blatant federal overreach.” The BlueRibbon Coalition and the Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders, two off-roading advocacy groups, also filed an appeal on Monday.

BLM’s Decision Receives Mixed Reactions

Environmental groups and the Grand County Commission celebrated the BLM’s decision, viewing it as an important step towards managing Utah’s public lands and reducing the impacts of off-road vehicle routes. However, off-roading advocacy groups like the BlueRibbon Coalition criticized the decision for limiting camping access and disregarding the opinions of users who opposed the plan.

Legal Basis of the Appeals

Both appeals argue that the BLM’s decision violates various statutes, including the R.S. 2477 statute, which grants counties and states a right-of-way across federal lands. The appeals also claim violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Dingell Act, a combination of public lands bills and designations. Additionally, the appeals argue that the decision violates the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Support and Opposition to the Appeals

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney voiced his support for Utah’s appeal, stating that the closure of over 300 miles of off-road trails near Moab would have extensive impact on the region’s economy. On the other hand, Laura Peterson, an attorney from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), expressed disappointment in the appeals and argued that some individuals prioritize off-road vehicle routes without considering the damage they cause to Utah’s public lands.

Next Steps and Future Plans

Both appeals have been filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals, along with a motion to stay the route closures during the appeal process. The board has 45 days to respond. The BLM is currently revising 11 travel plans in Utah, and the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges plan is the third of these revisions. The area near Moab has become a hot spot for off-roading and has seen an increase in motorized use, leading to the need for stricter management and conservation efforts.

In Conclusion

The closure of 300 miles of off-road trails near Moab has sparked intense debate and legal challenges. While environmental groups and some government officials support the BLM’s decision, off-roading advocacy groups and the state of Utah argue that the closures infringe on public access to historic routes and violate various laws and constitutional rights. The appeal process will determine the fate of the closures, and the outcome will have significant implications for the future of off-roading and conservation in Utah.