Today, the BlueRibbon Coalition, joined by the Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders and Mr. Patrick McKay, challenged a decision by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to close 317 miles of some of the nation’s best off-roading trails near Moab, Utah. If allowed to stand, the closures will affect over 40 routes that have been popular for decades with Jeepers, overlanders, side-by-side users, dirt bikers, and dispersed campers. The most prominent closures are mapped here:
“These closures are part of an ongoing effort to close the vast American West, where the federal government is the largest landowner,” said lead attorney Matt Miller, a senior attorney at the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs in this case. “Every American shares in the ownership of our public lands, which exist for the responsible enjoyment of anyone who wants to recreate on them. BLM is trying to move use of these lands from the rights-based system that has endured for decades to a permission-based system that allows bureaucrats to close these lands to serve their policy preferences.”
“The trails closed by this decision are some of the most popular trails in the world,” said Ben Burr, BlueRibbon Coalition Executive Director. “Public lands belong to all Americans, and they should be managed to bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. I’ve spent weeks in this area exploring these trails and speaking to those recreating in this area, and these closures will cause irreparable harm to everyone who has participated for generations in the creation of a vibrant recreation culture in this area.”
“The stated goal of the BLM is to ‘obliterate’ roads once they are closed. There’s no going back. But the justifications for these closures don’t withstand the first hint of scrutiny,” said Nate Curtisi, attorney at the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “In recent years, the BLM has said that no further closures were necessary, and that the proper balance of recreation and preservation has been struck in this area. Now we have a new plan that is extremely pro-closure based on flimsy and often contradictory evidence. That is the definition of arbitrary and capricious.”
“The President is abusing his limited authority to remove 300 miles of Jeep trails that are regularly enjoyed by the public, said Nick Barry, Senior Counsel at America First Legal. “This arbitrary and capricious decision from the executive branch ignores the many comments that were submitted to the government that the trails are regularly used for recreation. We must stop the abuse of the executive branch, which continues to take an aggressive approach to closing off federal land to the public without any justification. This is public land, and it should be enjoyed by the public. Here, a low-level bureaucrat made the final decision to close these trails and to make it a crime to continue to use them. Our system requires accountable decision-makers, not hidden-away, petty-tyrant bureaucrats.”
Patrick McKay, Vice President of the Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders, added, “I am deeply saddened to see the BLM close many of the best motorized routes around Moab in a misguided attempt to manufacture wilderness suitability and play favorites among user groups. This travel plan is not balanced or reasonable and the reasons the BLM gave for these closures have no basis in fact. I look forward to seeing the BLM’s attempt to lock up our public lands overturned in court.”
The Interior Board of Land Appeals has 45 days to decide whether to issue a stay. Once it takes final action on the appeal, the parties will likely seek review in federal district court.
To read the full notice of administrative appeal, click here.
Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin that aims to foster human flourishing by protecting and promoting liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility. The Center for the American Future defends the Constitution through legal opposition to government overreach. The Center launches legal challenges at the administrative, district, and appellate court levels on behalf of ordinary people whose lives, liberty, and property are threatened by government action in defiance of the Constitution.