Environmentalists won a victory Friday in the Burr Trail dispute, blocking Garfield County's motion to begin work on a 13-mile stretch bordering wilderness study areas.
The 66-mile route connects Boulder, Garfield County, with Bullfrog, Kane County, working its way down Capitol Reef National Park's steel Waterpocket Fold formation along the way.Garfield County sought to have U.S. District Judge Aldon J. Anderson lift his injunction that prevented road work in the stretch between the end of pavement outside Boulder, through Long Canyon, to the start of the section called the Blues.
The injunction has been in effect many months. A month ago the BLM issued an environmental assessment and OK'd work on most of the rest of the road.
But on Friday Anderson refused to lift the injunction because environmentalists recently filed an appeal with the Interior Department's Board of Land Appeals.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Anderson, representing the government, said the board can expedite such a review. But that doesn't happen often.
Wayne G. Petty, representing the environmental groups, argued that roadwork should not begin in the sensitive stretch until the board has a chance to review the Bureau of Land Management's recent action.
"The appeal is based on our claim that the environmental assessment (issued March 7 by the BLM) is inadequate and based on erroneous factual and legal premises," Petty said.
In addition, the conservationists are attacking findings of no significant environmental impacts, issued March 8 by the BLM offices in Richfield and Cedar City. The groups maintain those findings are in error because they are based on the document, called a final environmental assessment report.
The final assessment, about ten pages long, is referred to in government documents as a supplement to a 1985 study.
However, a draft environmental assessment of about 70 pages was prepared last year by JBR Consultants Group of Salt Lake and Cedar cities.
Joseph Jarvis, Cedar City, the "J" of JBR, told the Deseret News that his draft version contained more expected environmental impacts from the road project than the final document.
JBR prepared the draft assessment, while the BLM prepared the final document.
Terri Martin, the local representative of one of the environmental groups - the National Parks and Conservation Association - said an important aspect not adequately studied is the impact on Capitol Reef National Park if Garfield County paves the entire trail.
The Burr Trail
-66 miles long (total length).
-2.7 miles surfaced.
-Section affected by injunction preventing road work: 13 miles from near Boulder to the Blues (end of Long Canyon).
-Sections the county can pave: 15 miles section from the Blues to Capitol Reef; 19.2 miles from Capitol Reef to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area .
-Sections the county can't pave: 8.4 miles in Capitol Reef; 7.6 miles in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.