The national parks and forests are designed to be accessed by the public. For many, like the petitioners here, motorized access is the only way that those areas can be accessed and enjoyed. While national lands also serve the purposes of conservation, the conservation purposes have always been coextensive, and not superior, to access rights.

Prior to the promulgation by the Forest Service of the 2005 Travel Management Rule, the traditional presumption was that motorized travel was permitted in and on user-created routes and trails in national forests unless there was evidence that restricting motorized use was necessary to avoid significant damage to the environment. This presumption respected the traditional balance between public access and conservation. The 2005 Travel Management Rule flipped this presumption on its head and, in practice, became a method by which prior Administrations kept people out of national forests by severely restricting access by motorized vehicles. In some national forests, as much as 90% of traditional motorized access routes were eliminated by the prior Administration.