Federal Board Agrees to Hear SEMA-Supported Appeal of Moab Road Closures

By the SEMA Washington, D.C., office

In an update to the Moab, Utah motorized access closures, the U.S.Moab Utah Department of Interior's Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) has agreed to hear the Off-Road Business Association's (ORBA) appeal of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to approve the Labyrinth/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan (TMP). If enacted, the TMP would significantly reduce motorized recreational access near Moab, Utah. 

The IBLA has denied the BLM's Motion to Dismiss ORBA's appeal of the Moab Field Office's September 2023 updated TMP that would close an estimated 317 miles of roads and trails to motorized recreationists at the Labyrinth/Gemini Bridges Special Recreation Management Area. Below is the timeline that the IBLA laid out for ORBA's and another group's challenges to the BLM's Labyrinth/Gemini Bridges TMP: 

  • BLM must file and serve its administrative record on or before January 16, 2024; 
  • BLM must file its Answer or a Motion to Dismiss on or before April 15, 2024; 
  • The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), which supports BLM's proposed closures, may file an Answer on or before May 13, 2024; and;  
  • ORBA may file one Reply to the Answers of BLM and SUWA on or before June 10, 2024. 

"The IBLA's decision to hear ORBA's appeal of the BLM's heavy-handed closure is an important step in protecting roads and trails near Moab," said Eric Snyder, SEMA's senior director of federal government affairs. "I'm proud to serve on ORBA's board of directors, as SEMA values its role in working with ORBA to help lead the fight to protect motorized recreational access."  

ORBA's appeal is supported by One Voice, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), United Four-Wheel Drive Association, USA (United Snowmobile Alliance), SEMA and the many off-road businesses that comprise ORBA's membership. The coalition is challenging the BLM's proposed closures along with the agency's process surrounding the decision on the grounds that there was inadequate review, incomplete and defective factual data, mapping errors, decisions made from unsupported data, and violations of settlement agreements.  

ORBA's November 2023 filing asked the IBLA to rescind the BLM's Travel Management Plan (TMP) and Environmental Assessment (EA), and it directed the BLM to: 

  • (i) revamp and redraft the TMP consistent with this Statement of Reasons,  
  • (ii) ensure the new TMP considers an adequate range of alternatives, including alternatives that contemplate the establishment of new routes and trails,  
  • (iii) initiate pre-NEPA outreach with Appellants and others as required by the SUWA Settlement Agreement, 
  • (iv) prepare an EIS, not EA, to address all impacts of the proposed TMP, including cumulative impacts on OHV recreation,  
  • (v) correct all mapping errors cited above and provide up-to-date, accurate information in the new TMP and EIS, and  
  • (vi) release the new TMP and EIS for a minimum 90-day review and comment period so that Appellants and other members of the public can confirm the accuracy of BLM's mapping and other supporting data. 

ORBA's appeal focuses on the BLM's road and trail closures at the Labyrinth/Gemini Bridges Special Recreation Management Area for the following reasons: 

  • BLM provided an inadequate review period for public assessment of the proposed TMP and Environmental Assessment (EA), both of which were incomplete and factually defective when released to the public. 
  • Mapping errors persist and render BLM's decision to approve the TMP and EA arbitrary and capricious. 
  • BLM approved the TMP and EA in violation of the 2017 Settlement Agreement in Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance et al. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior. 
  • BLM improperly limited the scope of the TMP and alternatives, resulting in conflicts with the Applicable Resource Management Plan. 
  • The TMP and EA rely on visitation and resource capacity assumption that defy logic and are unsupported by evidence. 
  • The TMP and EA fail to account for or analyze the cumulative impact of past, present and reasonably foreseeable trail and route closures. 
  • The EA fails to base its analysis on high-quality data, resulting in a document that confuses rather than informs the public and decision-makers. 
  • The TMP and EA did not consider an adequate range of alternatives. 
  • The TMP and EA provide an inadequate and facially incorrect analysis of the plan's economic impacts. 
  • The TMP and EA draw conclusions regarding recreational visitor impacts that cannot be supported by the available data. 
  • The TMP and EA fail to acknowledge that routes designated under the National Trails System Act, including the Old Spanish Trail, remain multiple-use areas. 
  • The TMP and EA impermissibly rely on outdated and/or generalized technical reports. 
  • The TMP and EA fail to address data showing that closure of recreational areas often make user conflicts worse, not better. 

For additional information, contact Tiffany Cipoletti at