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Old 11-08-2003, 03:45 AM
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Default BRC Latest News - Affects Utah

     

BLUERIBBON COALITION NEWS RELEASE
4555 Burley Drive, suite A
Pocatello, ID 83202

Contact: Bill Dart, Public Lands Director (208)237-1008 xt. 102

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR OHV ACCESS CASE

November 4, 2003 (POCATELLO, IDAHO) -- On Monday, November 3 2003, the Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari in Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which will allow the Court to undertake fundamental review of a 10th Circuit Court ruling regarding off-highway vehicle (?OHV?) use in Utah.

The matter involves a lawsuit originally filed in 1999 by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). The suit claimed the BLM had not properly managed OHV use on BLM lands in Utah. In particular, SUWA claimed BLM was not doing enough to prevent ?impairment? of Wilderness Study Areas, despite numerous BLM orders restricting or eliminating OHV use in such areas.

OHV access interests successfully moved to intervene in the case, including Utah?s largest public lands access organization, the Utah Shared Access Alliance, and the BlueRibbon Coalition, a national pro-access advocacy group with more than 1,100 business and organizational members representing more than 600,000 individuals. Represented by lawyers with the BlueRibbon Legal Action Program, the OHV groups moved to dismiss many of SUWA?s claims in the district court, arguing that SUWA was improperly attempting to expand judicial review over ongoing agency management through a creative application of Section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act?s?failure to act? cause of action While BLM did not join in this motion, the district court granted the OHV?s groups motion to dismiss in December, 2000,
leading to SUWA?s appeal to the 10th Circuit.

The 10th Circuit reversed, finding that SUWA was entitled to rely on its ?failure to act? theory in challenging what SUWA believed was only ?partial? compliance with BLM?s statutory duties. On May 19, 2003, the OHV groups filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of the 10th Circuit ruling. On July 18, 2003, the United States filed a similar petition. In Monday?s ruling, the High Court granted the Government?s petition. The Court has not separately ruled on the OHV groups petition or clarified the role the OHV groups might play in further proceedings before the Supreme Court.

Unless overturned by the Supreme Court, the 10th Circuit ruling could radically affect public land management. The BLM is already spending over 40% of its budget in litigation. Land managers are having a difficult time implementing any pro-active management because of expanding litigation efforts by special interests on all sides of any issue. Under the prior jurisdictional paradigm one need at least wait for final agency action to sue BLM?s management balance; under the 10th Circuit decision any interested party could sue at any time claiming BLM?s efforts, no matter how extensive, were merely ?partial? fulfillment of the plaintiffs? favorite legal duty.

Representatives of the OHV organizations are pleased by the Court?s decision granting certiorari. Brian Hawthorne of the Utah Shared Access Alliance stated, "the issue is not whether BLM must manage OHV use in wilderness study areas. It must and it does. The issue is whether wealthy anti-access groups can commandeer day-to-day management of BLM programs through nonstop litigation. The Tenth Circuit ruling would open the floodgates for litigation that might paralyze prudent management." Similarly, Bill Dart, Public Lands Director of BlueRibbon explained, ?by granting certiorari, the Supreme Court has recognized the seriousness of the issue raised by the OHV groups? and the Government's petitions. If nothing else, a ruling from the Court will clarify the proper nature of judicial review so that all interested parties can adapt accordingly.?

###
Additional information on this release and/or other BlueRibbon media releases are available on our website at http://www.sharetrails.org/MediaReleases/index.cfm

The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible recreation, equal opportunity and recreation access to all. The BlueRibbon Coalition works to "Preserve our natural resources FOR the public instead of FROM the public," and to promote cooperation among the
various user-groups.

Clark L. Collins, Executive Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
4555 Burley Drive, Suite A
Pocatello, ID 83202
ph.(208)237-1008 ext. 101
fax (208)237-9424
www.sharetrails.org
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