BlueRibbon Coalition - Utah Land Use Update

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July 16, 2013 5:42 PM

Greetings BRC members and supporters in Utah!

Today we have a Utah Land Use Update with news about some important meetings - so be sure to read and forward to friends and family.

Some of the updates were previously blasted to our alert list, including the big news about the latest lawsuit filed by SUWA, or as some of you like to refer to them... Sue-Ya. We also have an update about the effort to formulate an Eastern Utah lands bill and the (lack of) progress on two key BLM management plans.

Using that humorous "Sue-Ya" epithet to describe the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is quite apropos, at least in our opinion. Their latest lawsuit is making nationwide news, including the natural resource newsletters in Washington, DC.

IMPORTANT:
In our previous update, we noted that the return to the federal court room triggered memories of the many legal actions fought by BRC stretching all the way back to 1997. In a lot of the cases, as in the current SUWA case, we enter the case to "defend" federal land managing agencies against further closures. It is a little distasteful because, to be honest, we aren't that happy with the new travel decisions. Still, "defending" the land managers is an important and essential part of our Legal Program.

But those same agencies sometimes capitulate to the special interests and we must fight back. On more than a dozen occasions the BRC Legal Program has filed suit against the land managers to fight decisions that unlawfully restricted access, including five (5) cases since adoption of the 2005 Forest Service Travel Management Rule.

We cannot continue this unparalleled effort without the continuing support of our litigation partners, members and financial supporters.

Your generous support of BRC and our legal program has never been more urgently needed. You see, during the economic downturn our traditional fund raising efforts have not been as successful as in the past. While the Board and staff are working on a new approach to raising funds, we must remain engaged with our legal arm on multiple fronts defending our right to recreate on public lands.

I hope you will find value in our efforts in Utah because, frankly, your financial support is desperately needed now. And as you will read below, your donation will make a difference.

Please join us today in making a contribution to BRC that will ensure the success of this transition and allow BRC to serve us well into the future.

Brian Hawthorne                                                        Ric Foster
Public Lands Policy Director                                     Public Lands Office Manager
208-237-1008 ext 102                                               208-237-1008 ext 107


Federal Court Deja-Vu
So many familiar faces... so much more gray hair!

It has been only 12 years since we first met the radicals at SUWA in the federal courtroom and just 9 years since the Supreme Court handed them a 9-0 slap down. But on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, U.S. Senior District Judge Dale Kimball heard oral arguments in their latest attempt to lock up millions of acres of scenic BLM land in Utah.

This time SUWA is joined by preservationist special interest biggies like The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Sierra Club. The latest suit challenges six (6) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Resource Management Plans (RMP) and Travel Plans (known now as "Travel Management Decisions") covering nearly 12 million acres in Utah. The case is so massive the court decided to divide it up via BLM Field Office. The Richfield office, home to the YouTube-famous "Cainville" open riding area is up first. (For a complete history of the case check our Summer 2012 Utah Update here.)

Now... let me just stop and give our readers a bit of context. The former management plan in Richfield allowed open riding on 77% of the lands managed by the Field Office, 10% was closed to motorized people, and 13% had travel limits to designated roads and trails. The new plan has less than 1% open riding, closes 13% to motorized use and limited 77% to designated routes. The Travel Decision also closed hundreds of miles of existing roads and trails that were previously open.

That isn't enough for these radical environmentalists and this (latest) lawsuit uses every trick in the book to close even more.

Paul Turcke, BRC's Lead Counsel, is representing people who use the roads and trails in Utah. He argued on behalf of a coalition of OHV advocacy groups (Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), and BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC)). The court also heard from lawyers representing the State of Utah and its State Institutional Trust Lands, the affected counties and the oil and gas industry.

On the other side was a phalanx of staff attorneys from SUWA and Earth Justice (Earth Justice is the foundation funded legal arm of the Sierra Club). The plaintiffs typically get to make their argument first, and as you might imagine, the presentation focused on complaints that the BLM didn't close enough lands to people who use vehicles for access and recreation. Among the complaints was that the BLM didn't sufficiently analyze impacts from OHV use on global warming.

We're not joking, and no, SUWA's attorneys didn't complain to the court about the greenhouse gasses emitted by wealthy hikers who drive in from California or fly in from Europe and Asia.

An attorney from the Department of Justice defended the BLM's plans, outlining eight years of seemingly endless environmental analysis. Paul Turcke, representing you, went next and focused on the specifics of SUWA's legal arguments. He was followed by Shawn Welch, Kathy Davis and Tom Mitchell, representing counties, the State of Utah and SITLA (Utah's School Trust lands), respectively. They did a great job of dissecting SUWA's remaining arguments and describing how the decisions have affected Utah.

The Court has taken the matter under advisement and can be expected to render a decision in perhaps 60-120 days. Regardless of its brilliance and/or final outcome, that decision will likely be appealed. The case will then theoretically move on to the Price office, home of the San Rafael Swell or the Moab office, home of, well, Moab.

We'll have updates and info as they become available. (Again, a complete history of this case is here.)


Utah Congressmen begin talks on Wilderness
UPDATE: Tentative Dates for Meetings

All three of Utah's U.S. House representatives, led by Rep. Rob Bishop (UT), Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, are initiating a process to develop federal legislation aimed at addressing many of the contentious issues plaguing public lands management in six (6) eastern Utah counties (Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan, Uintah and Wayne).

It seems logical to assume that the effort was motivated by a letter sent to President Obama requesting yet another massive National Monument be designated near Moab, Utah. That request, signed by over 100 outdoor business members of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), has been criticized by the entire Utah Congressional delegation, Utah's Governor Herbert and the affected counties. Indeed, Grand County (Moab) sent a letter to President Obama asking that he NOT designate a monument!

The big news here is that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has agreed to participate. This is big news because in such previous efforts, SUWA has been unwilling to even consider any proposal other than their gargantuan 10 million acre Wilderness proposal.

It is reasonable to assume that SUWA will play the role of the spoiler, participating only long enough to find a reason to bolt from the process and then appealing to President Obama to unilaterally impose SUWA's long sought plans for a Greater Canyonlands National Park.

While that may be a reasonable assumption, we should note that high level staffers from the Pew Foundation are participating, and when you have the people who fund a huge percentage of the anti-access efforts at the table, who knows what can happen.

State and local OHV groups are also participating in the effort, including USA-ALL's Mike Swenson and BRC's Brian Hawthorne. Utah state legislators and counties are very much involved as well.

UPDATE: Tentative dates for meetings announced
There have been some meeting and field tour dates announced. We have that list here.

We encourage OHV users to attend the participate, but as always, our Action Alert list will be your best source for up-to-date info. Stay tuned via BRC's Action Alert list to keep tabs on this important issue. Subscribe here.


Quick Utah BLM Updates

Cedar City Field Office
Resource Management Plan & Environmental Impact Statement (RMP and EIS)
The glacial pace of BLM's planning process is well known. Utah's Cedar City Field Office is on track to set a record for slowest pace ever as it is now in its third year of developing alternatives for its Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RMP DEIS).

For those new BRC members, think of an RMP as akin to a County Master plan, where general guidance is laid out for various uses in various areas.

The good news is they've completed the Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS) and have a Draft Evaluation Report for Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). They also have an updated website with quite a number of documents that support or were developed as part of the current planning effort. http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/cedar_city/planning.htm

Of importance to BRC's members is that the BLM is preparing Travel Management Plans (TMPs) in conjunction with the RMPs. BLM reports that they are working with local county governments and are performing inventories of the existing road network. That is all well and good, but we remain concerned that BLM is not inventorying for trails, as is required in their planning guidance. Local OHV clubs as well as USA-ALL and BRC are watching this developing situation closely.

St. George BLM Update
We had heard a rumor that the St. George Field Office travel plan is on a parallel track with the development of the Resource Management Plans for the two newly designated National Conservation Areas and the Amendment to the St. George Resource Management Plan. However, as least as we understood it, the passage of the Washington County Wilderness Bill in 2009 mandated the completion of the travel plan within three years. Maybe we had that wrong, or maybe its just typical of today's governmental operations. In any event, the BLM says they are currently working on their route evaluations and are planning to have the draft out by fall 2013.

As always, we'll keep you updated and we'll let you know when the drafts of these two important plans are released for public review and comment. Until then, as we often say... stay tuned!

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org
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As a non-profit, grassroots organization funded primarily by membership dues and donations, we greatly appreciate your support. Visit http://www.sharetrails.org/make-a-difference-now to help fund our efforts to protect your trails!

  

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