Law & Order

Court Blocks Motorized Vehicle Rule for Steens Mountain, Oregon

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a plan for regulating motorized vehicle use around Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The Appeals Court ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to establish baseline environmental conditions for both its travel and recreation rules for the 428,000-acre area. A lower court had approved the management plan, but the ruling was challenged by the Oregon Natural Desert Association.  

At issue is a seeming conflict in the law authorizing motorized recreation in the Steens Mountain area, which prohibits the use of motorized vehicles “off-road” but authorizes their use “on roads and trails.” Use of those terms are not further defined. Of particular interest is at least 36 miles of routes that were a matter of record in 2000 when the legislation was enacted but may not technically be considered a road or trail. The issue has been sent back to the BLM for reconsideration.  

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at