Off-road enthusiasts take legal action against Moab road closures in federal court

“Federal Judge Asked to Declare BLM’s Road Closures Near Moab Unlawful”

Off-roading enthusiasts are taking their fight against road closures near Moab to federal court. The BlueRibbon Coalition, Colorado Off-Road Trail Defenders and Patrick McKay, vice president of Colorado Off-Road Trail Defenders, filed a lawsuit in federal district court on Friday. The suit brings the recreation advocates’ complaints about losing access to popular roads before a federal judge.

In late September, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a plan for the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Area, which spans over 300,000 acres northwest of Moab and abuts the Green River. The plan closed 317 miles of routes previously open to motorized use, citing dangers to sensitive habitats, riparian zones, and cultural sites.

Recreators hope that a federal judge will declare the Bureau of Land Management’s road closures unlawful, stating that the BLM prioritized the experiences of nonmotorized recreators. Off-road groups and the State of Utah separately challenged the travel management plan by filing appeals with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), which reviews final decisions for the U.S. Department of the Interior. They also filed separate petitions for a stay, asking the IBLA to keep the roads open until it rendered a final decision on the travel management plan.

At the end of November, the IBLA rejected that request, leading the off-roading groups to ask a Utah federal judge to declare the travel management plan unlawful and prevent it from ever being enforced. “We are prepared to do what it takes to keep [the trails] open,” said Ben Burr, executive director of the BlueRibbon Coalition.

Environmental advocates saw the road closures as a conservation win for public lands. SUWA plans to intervene on behalf of the BLM in this case. The full map of the BLM’s plan for the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Area can be found here.

Historic Background: The conflict over off-roading in the Moab area has been ongoing for years. Off-roading enthusiasts have been attracted to the unique and rugged terrain, leading to conflicts with conservationists and land managers who seek to balance preservation with recreational use. This latest legal battle represents the most recent development in a long-standing dispute over land management and usage rights in Utah’s public lands.

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