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law suit over off road land

MARTY196

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Albuquerque,New Mexico
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1992 XLT
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Off-Roaders Fight for Trail

By Judith Kohler
The Associated Press

DENVER— Attorneys for off-road vehicle groups and environmental advocates told a federal appeals court Wednesday that a battle over a proposed wilderness area in southern New Mexico boils down to protecting the public's interest.
The Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club are asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court's dismissal of their 2000 lawsuit challenging closure of most of the trails in the Robledo Mountains.
The case was taken under advisement.
The Bureau of Land Management said it closed the trails in 1997 because of damage to the land, part of an 11,640-acre proposed federal wilderness area.
"The government changed the rules, and that's just not right," said Lee Peters, an attorney representing the Southwest off-road group.
The recreation groups say the trails are public roads and have been used since the 1950s under an 1866 law allowing states to claim rights to roads built over federal land. Congress repealed the law in 1976 but said counties and states could continue using roads built before then.
A lower court, however, sided with the BLM, The Wilderness Society and other environmental groups intervening on the agency's behalf. The court threw out the lawsuit, saying the off-road groups don't have standing because they can't show how they would be personally harmed.
A key issue is whether the trails are bona fide roads, as claimed by the off-road users. The BLM doesn't consider the trails the same as roads. The question is important because federal wilderness areas are pristine, roadless tracts off-limits to development and mechanized travel.
Members of the three-judge panel hearing the arguments asked why recreation groups rather than the state of New Mexico or counties are suing to keep the trails open. Peters replied the state and counties don't claim the roads.
"These roads will have no one to defend them if this group doesn't claim them. They are public roads," Peters said.
Protection of wilderness and other public lands in the West will be jeopardized if the court rules that such groups have the right to sue, said Ted Zukoski, a Denver-based lawyer with Earthjustice representing the environmental groups.
"This would blow the doors open to anybody," Zukoski said.
He said laws cited by the off-road groups were intended to protect people whose property— or their ability to use their property— is threatened. That doesn't apply to the recreation groups, he said.
Alice Thurston, a lawyer for the BLM, told the judges that the agency is charged with ensuring that the land retains the qualities that makes it eligible for consideration as federal wilderness. Only Congress can designate wilderness.
 




ALLOUTWAR13

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November 14, 2003
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Dallastown, Pennsylvania
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99 sport
that sucks i hope the offroaders win

is there a petition anywhere because id sign it for them.
 




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