At this hearing, on Friday, June 6, 11:30AM, in the U.S. District Court District of Utah, the court will hear oral argument on motions from the federal defendants and conservation groups to dismiss the case.
At the center of this case is a political dispute between the State of Utah and the BLM over the future of Utah’s last remaining undeveloped public lands. In an effort to transform this political dispute into a legal claim, the State claims that the BLM may no longer manage some of Utah’s spectacular public lands to protect their renowned wilderness characteristics no matter how compelling the case for conservation. Instead, the State seeks to force the BLM to adopt its vision for the future of these special places, which favors mineral leasing and development and excludes wilderness protection.
Under federal law public lands must be managed for a range of uses including preservation in their natural condition. How BLM strikes the balance of those uses is largely a matter of broad agency discretion. The law is also clear that BLM has broad authority to decide where and whether to lease lands for oil and gas drilling, even where those lands are identified in a land use plan as available for such leasing.
The conservation groups have intervened to oppose the State’s effort to force these illegitimate wholesale changes in BLM’s management of public lands throughout Utah. Millions of acres of public lands managed by the BLM have been found, through rigorous inventories and follow-up investigations, to possess wilderness qualities. Citizen advocates have worked for decades to keep these areas pristine while keeping the dream of their designation as Wilderness alive.
Heidi McIntosh of Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, will represent the defendant-intervenors Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance before Judge Dee Benson in Uintah County et al v. Salazar et al (2:10-cv-00970-DB-BCW), U.S. District Court District of Utah.