SUWA Wins, Counties and ORV Groups Lose in Factory Butte Court Case

Federal Court Eviscerates Suit Challenging Off-Road Limitations at Factory Butte

Factory Butte

Factory Butte.  Copyright James W. Kay.

SALT LAKE CITY - On July 9, federal court judge Dee Benson dismissed much of a lawsuit brought by Wayne and Garfield counties, along with a number off-road vehicle (ORV) users, seeking to overturn travel restrictions put in place at Factory Butte.  The BLM implemented these safeguards at Factory Butte to protect the area from ORV damage, particularly injury to rare and endangered cacti.  Factory Butte, a well-known central Utah icon located to the east of Capitol Reef National Park, has suffered from ugly scars and soil erosion due to the explosion of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles using the area.

The suit stemmed from a BLM decision in September of 2006 providing for open ORV use in a 2,602-acre “play area” and limiting the remaining use to designated trails outside the play area at Factory Butte.  ORV users objected to the plan and filed suit on March 8, 2007. 

The lawsuit from the counties and ORV users alleged that the BLM (1) had broken the law by issuing the travel restrictions themselves and (2) was, through bias, seeking to adopt the travel restrictions on a permanent basis into the pending land use plan for the area and in an environmental assessment discussing information kiosks, fencing, and a new highway turnout lane necessary to implement the restrictions.  The counties baselessly claimed that the land use plan and the environmental assessment had become so tainted with bias towards implementing the closures that the court would have to step in and immediately halt them.  This was pure conjecture because neither the land use plan nor the environmental assessment had even been finalized or released to the public.  In essence, this second allegation was simply a round-about attempt to attack the travel restrictions themselves.  The federal court saw through this scheme and dismissed the bias claims for lack of standing and ripeness.  In other words, it declared that it could not review documents that had not been released or finalized.

The case is Wayne County v. Christensen, Case No. 2:07-CV-0138.
View the original petition requesting emergency protection of Factory Butte (April 2005)

 

 

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