- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A federal judge has ordered the Bureau Land of Management to document that its designation of motorized routes in central Utah will not harm wildlife and archaeological resources.

The order issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball is meant to address deficiencies the judge found in the BLM’s Richfield resource and management plan in 2013. The agency has been given three years to conduct new analyses on its nearly 4,400-mile route network, reported The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/1cYlK9S).

BLM’s Richfield plan covers 2.1 million acres in Sevier, Garfield, Wayne and Piute counties.

In 2008, the Utah BLM authorized routes that environmentalists said didn’t consider ancient Native American sites, quiet recreation and habitat for disappearing native animals.

“BLM’s refusal to conduct on-the-ground inventories for cultural resources that are being damaged and destroyed from off-road vehicle use was shocking,” said Bill Hedden, executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust.

The judge did not order the agency to vacate its travel plan, because Kimball said that could cause confusion and endanger the public.

“He didn’t want to micromanage BLM land, so he didn’t impose any closures,” said Heidi McIntosh, an Earthjustice lawyer litigating the case. “The work he is requiring is a prerequisite to designation of routes.”

Kimball previously concluded that officials don’t know whether motorized use threatens ancient treasures protected under federal laws.

Kimball’s order gives the BLM one year to complete surveys for the routes between the Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks.

A BLM spokeswoman declined to comment on the judge’s order Tuesday.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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