SUWA Amends Lawsuit in Attempt to Close Roads and Trails

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May 23, 2007
Las Vegas


SUWA Amends Lawsuit in Attempt to Close Roads and Trails

On March 19, 2009, a coalition of eleven Wilderness activist groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) amended a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was originally filed on December 17, 2008, and challenged the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) offering of 77 oil and gas leases in three Utah Resource Areas. In January 2009, SUWA obtained a temporary restraining order against the challenged lease sales, and the BLM, upon consultation with counsel and newly installed leadership, has apparently withdrawn interest in pursuing the sales. As a result, the Second Amended complaint removes references to these specific projects. Far from being satisfied with their "victory," SUWA adds claims against the entirety of BLM's Moab, Price and Vernal Resource Management Plans (RMPs) and travel plans and requests that the court enjoin BLM from taking any action to implement the new plans. SUWA's claims include several specifically targeting OHV use.

SUWA claims that travel plans developed in the Moab, Price and Vernal Field Offices violate the law by failing to adequately analyze environmental effects of vehicle use, even though the BLM's new plans closed over half of the existing roads and trails. These are in addition to SUWA's claims that The BLM allows too much oil and gas leasing and not enough Wilderness Study Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and Wild and Scenic Rivers.

SUWA has incorporated two relatively new claims in their lawsuit. SUWA is alleging the BLM failed to include "quantitative air quality modeling for ozone and other criteria pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act." They say the BLM did not "model air emissions" from vehicle use. SUWA is also alleging the BLM failed to analyze the impacts of oil and gas development and vehicle use on climate change. SUWA claims these activities result in the release of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

No word on whether SUWA will challenge visitors from throughout our and other countries who collectively fly millions of miles annually to visit Utah's National Parks. I imagine emissions from ATVs and dirt bikes would pale in comparison to the greenhouse gas emissions from the steady stream of jets through the hubs and regional airports surrounding Utah's famed backcountry.

BRC worked quickly with the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and Colorado Trail Preservation Alliance to move to intervene in the case on behalf of vehicle users. Please view our announcement here:
Recreational Groups File to Enter Utah Desert Lawsuit - BRC Media Releases

There is also some background information and a Q&A at
Index of /uploads/UTAH

Ric and I want to send a special thank you to all who are members of our Moab Partnership. Your support means there is money in the bank as we prepare to fight SUWA once again in federal court.

Brian Hawthorne Ric Foster
Public Lands Policy Director Public Lands Department Manager

PS. The groups suing the BLM are Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Center for Native Ecosystems, Utah Rivers Council, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Red Rock Forests.

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