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POCATELLO, IDAHO — The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) announced today that it is making changes with its leadership team. Spencer Gilbert will be stepping down as the Executive Director of the organization. Ben Burr, the organization’s Policy Director, will be assuming the responsibilities of the Executive Director. For the month of July, Ben has been acting

POCATELLO, IDAHO — The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) announced today that it is making changes with its leadership team. Spencer Gilbert will be stepping down as the Executive Director of the organization. Ben Burr, the organization’s Policy Director, will be assuming the responsibilities of the Executive Director. For the month of July, Ben has been acting as an interim Executive Director to be trained in the new duties, and he will be ready to fully assume the role in August. Spencer Gilbert is looking to join the Board of Directors, where he can continue to guide the organization forward in a strategic advisory role.

Ben Burr has been with the organization for almost two years, and he is familiar with the organization’s current portfolio of work. He has been building relationships with the network of allies that have been integral to BRC’s success and he brings a depth of experience that will serve BRC well in this new role. He has been engaged in public land policy since he was a teenager working for a helicopter logging operation. He grew up in Utah where he learned to enjoy all forms of outdoor recreation. He has experience in off-roading, motor boating, snowmobiling, hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, camping, kayaking, and rock climbing, and he has traveled in forty-five different states. He spent seven years working in the U.S. Senate as a digital media specialist. Prior to joining BRC, he was working as private public land consultant.

“I’m looking forward to serving in this new role with the BlueRibbon Coalition, and I think the coming years will be some of the most important yet,” Burr said. “As outdoor recreation of all forms explodes in popularity, I believe recreation access will become the defining issue in public land policy and the dominant force in public land policy decisions. I follow a strong line-up of effective advocates who have served this organization, and I want to take what they have built to the next level. With this organization’s reputation and track record, I am confident we can get some big things done, and I am looking forward to sharing my vision with our members, supporters, and those who we still need to join us in our efforts as we ramp up to fight for expanded recreation access for a new generation of public land users.”

The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes responsible use of natural resources, a strong conservation ethic, and expanded recreation access for all public land users. It has been working to fulfill this mission since 1987, and it has successfully protected access to millions of acres of public land, thousands of miles of roads, and recreation opportunities for a wide range of recreation users. BRC is uniquely positioned to continue advancing the interests of its members through strategic legal work, aggressive engagement in administrative actions, effective education programs, and a strong commitment to the benefits that come to individuals and families from getting out and enjoying the great outdoors.

This article originally appeared on BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails. You can Read More from BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails.

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BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails

Dear Polaris,

We want your support! As an organization that fights hard to protect access for all forms of motorsports, one of the most common questions we get from members is how do original equipment manufacturers support our efforts. The short answer is some have been supportive, and some have not. We are incredibly grateful to have recently received a grant from the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative to support trail inventory work for our engagement in the travel management planning in Utah.

We learned that when we go to the OEMs with a plan and compelling justification for their support, they will support our work. We are working on important things like protecting access to over 10,000+ miles of roads in Utah, we’re the only national group mobilizing to protect dispersed camping nationwide, and we’re constantly engaged in numerous administrative decisions across the nation. We have recently applied for other grants, and one application was for a grant with the Polaris T.R.A.I.L.S program.

One of the sections of the application related to how connected we are to the community of their customers. We have a large base of membership. Our social media followings are decent. And, we are connected to hundreds of groups and influencers who help us spread our message.

Nevertheless, this requirement got us thinking that the best way to increase our competitiveness for grants like this is to show Polaris, and some of the other groups we are applying with that we are you, and you are their customers.

We drafted a letter to Polaris’ Director of Branding and Corporate Partnerships to solicit their support and request a meeting to discuss in more detail our organization’s mission and current projects. We want to give you an opportunity to add your name to this letter.

Read more to sign the letter. 👇

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BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails

As part of the ongoing travel management process in Utah where access to over 10,000 miles of roads and trails are at stake, The BLM is currently requesting scoping comments for the Book Cliffs Area in Uintah County. This is some of Utah’s wildest country with herds of elk, deer, bison, and bighorn sheep drawing hunters from around the world to the area. It is also used by bear hunters and cougar hunters. It is also popular for shed collecting. Like many of Utah’s counties, Uintah County and the town of Vernal have started promoting the off-road recreation opportunities of the area, and organized groups are starting to discover this area that has been accessed by hunters for years. This area receives heavy use from the oil and gas industries. It is also an area with significant potential for free, open dispersed camping. The area also has a rich history of supporting grazing uses.

With almost 2,000 miles of routes being analyzed, this is an area with extraordinary amounts of access to cater to the numerous users who use this landscape. As part of the 10,000+ Project, BlueRibbon Coalition encourages all of its members to make a public comment to preserve access to this area.

The Deadline for Submitting Comments is July 23. Here is the link to the BLM planning page where you can make a comment: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/79313/570

The best comments will provide unique feedback from those with experience in the area. If this is an area where you enjoy using public land, we encourage you to share you feedback with the BLM.

Users can also add their voice to give weight to several of the issues we will be raising our public comment. Here are some of the issues we will be highlighting:

This area receives heavy use from multiple user groups. BLM should keep open as many routes as possible to prevent overcrowding.Many of the routes that travel through side canyons and spurs and to scenic lookouts or pulloffs from main routes have high recreation value as dispersed camping sites. BLM should not be making decisions based on lands included included in pie-in-the-sky legislative proposals that have never been passed into law.BLM should not be closing county R.S. 2477 roads in this area. If R.S. 2477 routes are reclaiming, BLM should work with Uintah County to maintain the roads for public use.This area has high recreation value for hunting, off-road exploring, shed hunting, rock hounding, wildlife viewing, photography, and camping.Roads that travel through and into wilderness study areas should be kept open. Wilderness is supposed to be land that is untrammeled by man, so an area with that includes roads in it shouldn’t even qualify as a wilderness study area. Without the process called “cherry-stemming,” where the roads that cross wilderness designations aren’t counted as part of the contiguous land area, these areas wouldn’t even be eligible for wilderness consideration. Because these roads complicate the potential for wilderness designation, wilderness advocates will be pressuring BLM to close roads in this area. BLM should consider removing these lands from wilderness inventories before they consider closing any of the roads in these areas.

Also, the best comments will also identify specific routes, camping spots, and areas where you like to recreate. You can describe these briefly in your comment, or you can make route specific comments on the BLM’s interactive map:

https://eplanning.blm.gov/EPLCommentMap/?itemId=5df1b974bd494a1e85b6e7245077003a

This video demonstrates the process for making a comment about a specific route:

It’s not required to make route specific comments, but if you’re familiar with the area, and you have on-the-ground knowledge of this area, this is the point in the process where it is important for you to share your feedback.

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On May 21, 2021 The Moab Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management announced its final Record of Decision for the Canyon Rims Travel Management Area. The Canyon Rims Travel Management Area is a popular area south of Moab in San Juan County. As part of the travel planning process the BLM looked at approximately 273 miles in the area. These 273 miles create a network of 296 routes. The BLM looked at four different alternatives as updates to a plan that was challenged in Court by snit-access wilderness advocates. The BLM selected an alternative that will close 46 miles of roads and trails. The selected alternative will also close 139 routes. Closing 46% of the routes in this area is unacceptable and unnecessary. Prior to the 30 day deadline to appeal the decision, BlueRibbon Coalition appealed the decision and requested a stay of the decision.

In the map above, the routes in red and green are the ones that will be closed. In order to identify the 139 closed routes, you have to zoom in closer to see the many spurs and pull-offs that lead to scenic vistas and dispersed camping areas that will be closed.

Last week we sent our policy director, Ben Burr, to the area to evaluate on the ground the routes that are proposed for closure. Based on what he found, the outdoor recreation community should be alarmed at the BLM’s brazen and unnecessary decision to close access to routes that provide public access to spectacular viewpoints, dispersed camping sites, trails with a wide-range of technical difficulty, and RS2477 roads. The BLM’s rationale for choosing this closure-heavy alternative is paper thin, and the environmental impacts of recreation in the area are practically non-existent.

Illegal Route Closures

It is common in Utah for environmental activists to drag deadfall and rocks in front of routes to give the public the impression that the routes are closed. As usage on the routes decreases, those who want to restrict access to public land claim the routes are reclaiming and should therefore be closed. This clearly happened with routes in this area.

In addition to being illegally-closed during the planning evaluation process, (it is a misdemeanor in Utah to block a road without permission) this route is recognized by the State of Utah as a R.S. 2477 route. As such, BLM shouldn’t be closing this road through the travel management process. Utah state law prescribes the process for closing roads owned by the state and its counties. BLM must recognize “A travel management plan is not intended to provide evidence, bearing on, or address the validity of any R.S. 2477 assertions.” Closure of an R.S. 2477 route is an act that provides evidence against the validity of R.S. 2477 assertions. The State of Utah is currently litigating its claims to R.S. 2477 roads, and closures such as this will harm the State’s case. It is BlueRibbon Coalition’s position that R.S. 2477 routes should be left open through the travel management process while these claims by the State are decided in federal court. We have identified at least 12 of the 139 routes that are proposed for closure qualify as R.S. 2477 routes, and they should not be closed. Furthermore, based on the pictures included in this post, it is clear that the scenic viewpoint accessed by this road has high value for recreation. It is also clear the road still exists and isn’t reclaiming. There was also no evidence of environmental impact that would justify closure.

Disproportionate Impact to Dispersed Camping

Whether you are car camping out of your Suburu Outback, trying out a new roof-top tent on your overloading rig, committed to the #vanlife, or looking for a place to park your RV, the closure of 139 routes in this travel area is a direct assault on your ability to enjoy dispersed camping. When measured by mileage, the closure of 18% of the mileage in the area is a level of closure we would still be challenging. However, when measured by routes, we’re losing almost half of what was available previously. BLM could have selected an alternative that only closed 90 routes (still too many), but they chose this option. The high number of route closures means most of what is being closed are the short spurs and pull-offs that are the best places for dispersed camping. For an example of the quality of dispersed camping sites that are being lost, look at this photo:

We’re starting to notice increased pressure to regulate, restrict and close areas to dispersed camping. In another travel area in Utah, anti-access groups challenged a BLM decision because it simply wasn’t restrictive enough of dispersed camping. The dispersed camping camping is not nearly as organized to protect their access, and we rarely see them participating in BLM processes to keep our public lands open. We started the Dispersed Camping Access Alliance as a special project to use the knowledge, experience, and resources of BlueRibbon Coalition to protect dispersed camping, but our success will be directly proportional to the number of overlanders, RV campers, #vanlifers, and car camping enthusiasts join our effort. There are 12 other areas in Utah that are going to go through this process, and with strength in numbers we can prevent a substantial amount of unnecessary closures.

We’re the Only Ones Appealing This, But Everyone Needs to Join the Fight!

When we first reviewed the decision it was clear we would need to challenge it. We reached out to several allies to see if they would be challenging this decision as well. So far, we haven’t received any confirmation that other advocacy groups or government entities are joining us in the formal challenge to the decision. The deadline has passed, so it is likely that it will only be BRC holding the line on this legal challenge. However, we would like to acknowledge the support of Colorado Off-road Trail Defenders and CORE for consulting with us on the public comments leading to this decision. Without their on-the-ground knowledge and understanding of the area, our standing to challenge this decision is stronger.

Utah Public Lands Alliance has supported us consistently in our participation in this process. Sage Riders Motorcycle Club has also provided phenomenal support. After filing the challenge we have reached out to other groups for support, and so far we have the support from the following organizations. We want to add your organization to the list of supporters joining us in the fight to keep Canyon Rims open:

If you or you’re group/club/organization want to support us in this effort, we hope you will consider making a generous donation to the cause. We will add other organizations to the list above based on those who fill out the organization field on the donation page.

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BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails

As part of the travel management settlement with SUWA, BLM is currently updating 13 travel management plans across the state of Utah. BlueRibbon Coalition was a defendant intervenor in the case, and we have been vigilantly participating in the process of updating the plans. This is a substantial effort, and we have created the 10,000+ Project as a place where members and supporters can join us in the process.

The latest travel management area that is open for public comment in this area is Gemini Bridges and Labyrinth Canyon. This is a map of the area under consideration:

This area is in what is called the scoping period of the process. This basically means BLM is collecting information from the public about which trails should be included in their analysis and which issues should inform their analysis. For an interactive map of the embedded image, use this link: https://eplanning.blm.gov/EPLCommentMap/?itemId=2be8bfadeb6a40549e59ad0ad0abb169

The most important part of this step in the process is to make sure that the BLM has a complete inventory of the routes and trails in the area. If this is an area that you are familiar with, you need to review the map using the link to see if there are any important trails missing.

The next issue we can address to make sure our comments have impact is to identify the trails that could be recommended for closure and make sure we justify their continued use. If you use these trails for recreation that is enough of a justification. Usually the trails that will be identified for closure will be trails that get light use and are starting to reclaim with vegetation or trails that look like they have no apparent purpose. For example, many trails have spurs that access overlooks or camping sites. On a map this spur might look unnecessary if we don’t actively justify why it should be left open.

If you don’t know this area as well as others, you can at least make a general comment that BLM should include any additional routes submitted by others and that they should propose an alternative that opens the maximum mileage of routes. We believe the travel management process in Utah will govern over 10,000 miles in trails, and so we will have to fight for every mile during every step of the process to achieve the goal of the 10,000+ Project.

While most people will focus on how travel management affects motorized access to this area, we have found in other areas that those who are trying to restrict access are working harder to restrict dispersed camping than they are working to restrict OHVs. If you enjoy dispersed camping, you need to let the BLM know that they should be looking for ways to increase and manage dispersed camping instead of trying to eliminate it. Moab is a crowded place where hotel rooms and designated campgrounds fill up. This travel management area is surrounded by restrictive National Parks and wilderness areas. With so many acres of land in this area already managed with restrictive access, this is an area where BLM needs to allow multiple use. The fight to eliminate dispersed camping is heating up on public lands, so we created the Dispersed Camping Access Alliance to unite the voice of those who enjoy open, free camping on public land.

If you haven’t already submitted your public comment, hopefully the information in this post helps. You have until April 26 to make a comment if you haven’t submitted one yet. Here is the link for submitting comments: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2001224/570

Of course we’re planning to submit a comment as well to maintain our legal standing in the travel management process. SUWA is appealing the BLM’s decision to designate hundreds of miles of trails as open in the San Rafael Desert in federal court. We are also consulting on the Trail Canyon plan, which includes trails around Kanab and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. We’ve submitted comments on several other areas including another area near Moab and the San Rafael Swell. We’re doing everything we can to have a meaningful impact on this process including legal intervention. Any donations made to the 10,000+ Project will be allocated to this effort that will require a lot of time and funding to be effective. We’re going the distance, but we can only succeed with your support.

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BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails

The BLM is currently working to create and update existing travel management within Chaffee County, Colorado.  The BLM’s current considerations regarding this travel management planning process include whether and how much to limit dispersed camping, construction of developed campsites, managing increased recreational use, managing user conflicts between recreational users and adjacent land owners, and possible road closures.  

Between the years 2016 and 2019, the county estimates that recreational use of the area has increased by 12% per year.  During that time, the BLM has received increased documentation regarding trash, improperly disposed human waste, and other negative impacts to the area.  They have also claimed a growing public demand for more developed camping in the area and to have seen increases in user conflicts between visitors and adjacent land owners.  The BLM and associated parties are taking a land health standards and human health and safety approach in mitigating and preventing these and other reported negative impacts. 

Within the Chaffee County area, travel management considerations are being given particular attention in the Shavano area, the Burmac/Methodist area, Fourmile North, the Browns Canyon National Monument Entrance/Hecla Junction, and Pass Creek.  Several of these areas, including the Burmac/Methodist area and the Browns Canyon National Monument Entrance/Hecla Junction currently fall under the 2006 Arkansas River Travel Management Plan which allows a 100’ margin for dispersed camping off of designated routes.  The BLM and associated land management groups have expressed concerns regarding potential impacts resulting from this wide margin and are seeking ways to decrease this margin in upcoming travel management.  They also claim that the existing trail network has created a demand for camping opportunities which are too limited to support the demand.  

The Shavano area is also receiving particular attention in this travel management process as an area that was hitherto unregulated.  This area has seen a high level of recreational demand in recent years.  Concerns currently claimed for this area include user conflict over recreational impacts on grazing, recreational impacts on wild forage, complaints regarding multiple fire rings, complaints of improperly disposed human waste, and a broad network of user routes which may see future closures.  

Other conflicts and concerns to be addressed by future travel management planning include user conflict between dispersed and developed campers and efforts to decrease a 100’ margin for dispersed camping off of designated routes in the Fourmile North area (currently managed through the Fourmile Travel Management Plan of 2002), efforts to decrease use of the Browns Canyon National Monument Entrance/Hecla Junction as an alternative for paid camping and claimed user conflicts between dispersed campers and adjacent private property owners, and preemptive management of areas without travel designations that currently do not receive much use but exist in close proximity to highly valued recreational resources such as the Arkansas River and popular trail systems.  All areas are currently being considered for restrictions on dispersed camping, with an increased focus on constructing and maintaining developed campsites.  

BlueRibbon Coalition encourages responsible use of lands and urges its members to recreate on public lands respectfully in order to preserve both public land use privileges and the land itself while also urging public land administrators to ensure that regulations and travel management are not created and implemented in such a way as to disadvantage any one group of land users more than another.  The direction of current travel management planning considerations leans heavily towards limiting the access of dispersed campers.  If you enjoy free, dispersed camping on public lands in this area of Colorado, we encourage our members to actively participate in the planning process and work to preserve responsible access for all user types by submitting a public comment to the BLM by 5pm on May 20th.  

Click here for information on how to submit public comment

As you draft and submit your public comment, please consider the following points. 

User conflict between recreationists, property owners, grazers, and others ought to be mitigated through means that do not limit the access of one user group for the benefit of another.  Travel Management Planning need not and should not result in closures of the currently available roads and lands.  Taking such an approach is not an inclusive process for public lands management and frequently disadvantages one or more user groups for the benefit of another.  The 100′ margin on the sides of roads is reasonable, and the BLM should use other means to mitigate impacts resulting from the 100′ margin other than closures, camping restrictions, or route reductions.

The above travel management considerations reveal a trend in the current travel management process.  Across the nation, dispersed camping is becoming increasingly limited and without an increase in user responsibility and appropriate advocacy, we anticipate seeing major reductions in areas where dispersed camping is allowed. This will only exacerbate impacts in the dwindling areas where dispersed camping remains allowed. We urge you to practice responsible cleanup and use of lands, to educate other users regarding responsible use, and to participate in the public process by submitting a comment to the Bureau of Land Management.  

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