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For Immediate Release
September 9, 2004
Contact: Rainer Huck 801 201-9660

USA-ALL Appeal Reverses Uinta National Forest Motorized Restrictions

A planning decision that closed numerous motorized trails in the Uinta National Forest (UNV) has been reversed as a result of an appeal by Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL)

On September 1 the Forest Service's administrative appeal office ruled that UNF managers unlawfully adopted a Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (SPNM ROS) standard in their 2003 revision of the UNF forest management plan. Since UNF managers relied on the unlawful standard to close dozens of miles of motorcycle routes in Tibble Fork and other areas, the closed routes should now be re-opened to motorized use - at least until "project-level" travel planning with full public participation can be completed.

The appeal office ruled that UNF managers improperly used more general revision-level planning to implement "project-level" closures that require more extensive environmental analysis and public participation.

"This is big," said Rainer Huck, USA-ALL president. "Federal agencies are increasingly attempting to push through closures without following regulations. This sends an important message."

When the Forest Service revised its forest plan, the Forest Service refused to accept USA-ALL=s comments regarding proposed SPNM ROS areas that would eliminate motorized use of existing trails. The Forest Service said USA-ALL could comment later when a project-level travel plan would be considered. However, after refusing to consider USA-ALL=s criticisms of SPNM ROS the Forest Service in August 2003 closed about 20 miles of trails in the Tibble Fork area to motorized use because, the Forest Service contended, the SPNM ROS required such immediate action even before a project-level travel plan would be considered.

USA-ALL filed its administrative appeal and twice asked the Forest Service to stay its action to no avail. USA-ALL then filed a lawsuit in Utah Federal District Court. In the lawsuit USA-ALL and the Forest Service entered into a settlement that provided that Routes 039 and 181 would open for the summer 2004 riding season and thereafter until the Forest Service completes a project level travel plan. The Forest Service agreed to attach errata sheets to its printed maps to show that the routes are open to motorized use. Significantly, the settlement also provided that USA-ALL's administrative appeal challenging the SPNM ROS scheme would remain viable. That appeal has now overturned the Forest Service's entire SPNM ROS scheme.

"We expect all trails in the new SPNM ROS areas to be reopened to motorized use," said Paul W. Mortensen, the attorney who handled USA-ALL's lawsuit and administrative appeal. "But we are waiting to see how the Forest Service responds."

The administrative appeal and lawsuit emphasize USA-ALL=s on-going commitment to make federal agencies follow public participation requirements before closing trails to motorized use. According to Mortensen, the Forest Service could yet determine to close specific trails in new SPNM ROS areas, but not before engaging in project-level planning that allows comment by USA-ALL members and the public and that seriously considers environmental effects of displacing motorized uses to other areas.

The administrative appeal ruling is available at http://www.fs.us/forum/nepa/lrmpdecisions.html. The federal court litigation was Case No. 2:04-CV-00023PGC, United States District Court of Utah.

Utah Shared Access Alliance is Utah's largest motorized access advocacy organization.
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