WASHINGTON (CN) – Eight environmental groups say the government’s Southern Utah land management plans will harm wilderness, cultural resources and wildlife habitat, and violate a slew of environmental laws. The region includes redrock wilderness, wild rivers, and numerous national parks and monuments, including the Vermilion Cliffs, next to the Grand Canyon.
The area also hosts ancient archeological sites, including villages along desert streams built by the Pueblo peoples a millennium ago. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society and six other groups challenge the Bureau of Land Management’s resource management and travel plans coming out of the BLM’s Richfield, Monticello and Kanab field offices.
The travel plans authorize use of off-road vehicles on 8,500 miles in 4.5 million acres of easily scarred desert environment.
The three travel plans, developed from 2001 to 2008, would allow travel in 300-foot corridors along many routes.
The government failed to fully assess air quality and climate change impacts from off-roading and potential oil and gas developments, the environmentalists claim. They say federal agencies also failed to consider impact-minimizing alternatives to the plans.
The plans do not adequately protect wilderness-grade lands, nor did they properly assess wild and scenic rivers, according to the complaint.
Represented by Earthjustice in Denver, the groups are asking the court to set aside the three resource management and travel plans.