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BLM Accused of Trashing Two|National Monuments with Roads

PHOENIX (CN) - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved "thousands of miles" of roads and trails for motor vehicles in the Vermilion Cliffs and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monuments even though BLM admits the vehicles will damage the lands and resources the monuments were created to protect, five environmental groups say in Federal Court.

President Clinton designated the areas National Monuments "nine years ago," the plaintiffs say. "(T)he Presidential Proclamations specifically prohibited the use of motorized vehicles off of any roads," the complaint states. In defiance of this, "BLM adopted resource management plans that treat the Monuments as if they are indistinguishable from general multiple-use BLM lands," the plaintiff says. "This is perhaps most evident in BLM's designation of a spider web of thousands of miles of trails and routes for motorized vehicles that BLM admits will damage the objects listed in the Proclamations. In doing so, the BLM ignored the inevitable impacts to the Monuments' cultural resources, wildlife and their habitat, and the wilderness character of these lands, all of which were to be protected under the Monument Proclamations."

Plaintiffs are The Wilderness Society, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

They want the BLM's resource management plans enjoined as illegal, and the BLM ordered to close immediately that "primitive roads" and "trails" it opened to motor vehicles.

Plaintiffs are represented by James Angell with Earthjustice of Denver.

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