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BlueRibbon Coalition Legal Update

July 03, 2013 9:41 PM

Before we get to the update... As we get ready to head out on this long Fourth of July weekend with friends and families, attending barbeques, picnics, fireworks displays and more, to please take a moment to remember the freedoms that we experience in our great Nation, and the many people who are serving and have faithfully served to protect them. This includes the 19 firefighters proudly serving with the Prescott Fire Department's Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire northwest o

Before we get to the update...
As we get ready to head out on this long Fourth of July weekend with friends and families, attending barbeques, picnics, fireworks displays and more, to please take a moment to remember the freedoms that we experience in our great Nation, and the many people who are serving and have faithfully served to protect them.

This includes the 19 firefighters proudly serving with the Prescott Fire Department's Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire northwest of Phoenix, Arizona

Please pray for them and their families. Our hearts go out to them.


I just returned from U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah, where oral arguments were heard on one of SUWA's (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) latest attempt to lock up millions of acres of public lands.

Sitting in the wooden "pews" in the federal courtroom triggered memories of the many legal actions fought by BRC stretching all the way back to1997. In many of these, like the current case in Utah, we have entered the case to defend agencies as intervenors against attack. Such 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 5 cases since adoption of the 2005 Forest Service Travel Management Rule. We have won a few and lost a few.

We cannot continue this unparalleled effort without the continuing support of our litigation partners, members and financial supporters. Please click here and make a generous donation to our legal efforts

As always, please call or email if you have any questions or comments.

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

Fate of public access to millions of acres in Utah will be decided in federal court... again. 

On Tuesday, July 2, 2013, U.S. Senior District Judge Dale Kimball heard oral arguments in yet another lawsuit filed by a long list of preservationist special interests including biggies like SUWA, The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Sierra Club. The 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 limited 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 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.

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.)

ISSA/BRC Lawsuit against the Clearwater National Forest
Can the USFS manage lands as "de-facto" Wilderness?

The BlueRibbon Coalition and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association joined forces to challenge the 2012 Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan and its conspicuous reliance on the Northern Region Recommended Wilderness Area ("RWA") Policy.

Under the Policy, RWAs are required to be managed as formally designated Wilderness, which in the Clearwater meant eliminating long-occurring snowmobile, motorcycle and mountain bike use.
In our last update here, the USFS submitted an "answer," notable in its conscious effort to denounce the existence of any "Region 1 RWA Policy."

  • The Region 1 RWA Policy that may or may not exist is here.
  • BRC's complaint is here. 
  • The USFS answer that denies the existing of the RWA policy is here.

Foundation funded lawyers from Earthjustice have enter the case as intervenors. We welcome and are flattered by their appearance, which reflects that they take our case seriously.

Last week (June 28, 2013), ISSA and BRC filed documents related to the administrative record which seek an order from the Court completing the record with omitted documents and also for leave to allow ISSA/BRC lawyers to supplement the record, including through discovery or depositions of Forest Service employees, to get the full picture behind the Regional RWA Policy and the manner it was imposed on decision makers in the Clearwater and other Forests. We expect a vigorous fight from the agency. 

Sandra Mitchell, Public Lands Director of the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, said it best:
"Only Congress can designate Wilderness. For many years we have heard rumors the Northern Region was going to start illegally limiting their management options in potential Wilderness areas, effectively creating a new system of administratively designated Wilderness.  In the Clearwater Travel Plan they have followed through on that vision. We cannot stand idly by and watch them change the long-established system for managing these treasured lands."
Learn more on the web: CLICK HERE

BRC and California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs represents recreation in key lawsuit challenging new USFS planning rules

(This is a re-print from our June 18, 2013 National Land Use Update here.)

Last August, BRC and the California Association of 4Wheel Drive Clubs (Cal 4 Wheel) joined forces with the other forest product and multiple use groups in filing a lawsuit to require the Forest Service to modify its new planning rule to avoid its devastating impacts on the health of National Forests, recreational uses of the forests and communities located nearby.
Earlier this month our opening brief was filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. The brief outlines the specifics in our case against the Forest Service for elevating such things as species viability, ecological sustainability, and ecosystem services over the five statutorily prescribed multiple uses: outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. You can read a copy of the brief here

In the meantime, the USFS has proceeded on its merry way developing directives to guide each individual forest in implementing this lousy Planning Rule. The agency calls it a Planning Handbook and, as you might expect, it makes the situation even worse. You could say they have regulated forestry out of the U.S. Forest Service. And as we note in our analysis, it is perhaps the most anti-recreation management guidance we have ever reviewed. It is that bad.

In a recent blurb we posted, we wonder if the USFS hasn't lost its purpose. You can read that here. (Let's hope not.) 

Also, check out the Planning Rule declaration by Don Amador, BRC's Western Representative.

Help BRC's legal efforts by donating to our Legal Action Fund. Info here.


 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 -

As a non-profit, grassroots organization funded primarily by membership dues and donations, we greatly appreciate your support. Visit to help fund our efforts to protect your trails!

May 31, 2016 10:48 AM
MONTANA - Custer Gallatin NF Forest Plan Revision June Public Meetings Announced
In January, the 3.1 million acre Custer Gallatin National Forest started on a Forest Plan Revision, a four-year process that will ultimately give way to a new forest plan. The Forest Service will host a second set of public meetings across various communities between June 14 and June 30. The focus of this second set of meetings will be the preliminary results from the Assessment of Existing Conditions to date and provide a forum for those attending the meetings and
May 23, 2016 1:40 PM
Sawtooth National Recreation Area Wants Your Input on the Wood River Travel Plan
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA) is announcing the availability of the proposed action for the Big Wood Travel Management Plan. The purpose of this plan is to bring road and trail use into compliance with the Forest Plan, laws, and regulations; to provide a system of roads and trails for public access and recreational travel; to manage resource impacts that are occurring due to the use of roads and trails; and to rehabilitate non-system routes identified as a problem
May 20, 2016 8:32 AM
CALIFORNIA - Public Invited to Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Area Tour and Comment
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Barstow Field Office, has scheduled three tour rides of the Rasor Road Off-Highway Vehicle Area OHV area to identify locations used for riding, camping, as well as to assess use habits and general conditions of the area. The California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Plan of 1980 mandated a recreation plan to address the intensive OHV activity of the Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area. Public meetings were held on April 28, May 5, and May 12
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