The Recreation HQ has been monitoring the issue of “minimization” for the last several years as that term applies to route designation on federal lands. Anti-access groups have tried to reinterpret that term and the impliedly necessary analysis, and have unfortunately had some success in U.S. district courts. These victories have been predictably used in an effort to bully the agencies into dramatically reducing roads and trails available for motorized use.
The minimization issue was addressed in a recent memorandum from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in what HQ hopes marks the beginning of a positive trend for access interests on the topic. That memorandum rejected an appeal filed by The Wilderness Society that asked the 9th to overturn a District of Arizona decision upholding route designation by BLM land management plans for the Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
Link to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Memorandum on Minimizationhttp://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2013/05/28/11-17482.pdf
The 9th found the minimization criteria does not require the agency to minimize impacts on a route-by-route basis. In the addition, the 9th agreed with the district court that the BLM performed a sufficiently detailed analysis to fulfill any obligations under the minimization criteria.
HQ hopes this memorandum, when combined with other recent federal court decisions, begins to lay the legal and administrative framework for NEPA travel planning efforts to fulfill the minimization criteria without unrealistic agency burdens and inappropriate pressure for the unwarranted closure of important access and recreation motorized routes.
By including a chapter in the planning document that identifies how the agency is specifically addressing the minimization criteria, HQ believes the agency can better defend the project against closure oriented lawsuits filed by anti-access groups.
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