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Protecting Utah’s Wild Lands

Dinosaur National Monument.

Yampa River at the Dinosaur National Monument.

Photo courtesy of Chris M. Morris

What’s at Stake

Earthjustice beat back an attempt by BLM and the state of Utah to open permanently open vast tracts of wilderness-quality lands in Utah to development and to strip the government of its ability to protect these pristine areas.


In 2003, the Bush administration agreed to permanently stop protecting millions of acres of potential wilderness. The agreement was the result of a suit by the state of Utah and others that was settled in secret.

Conservation groups intervened, and managed to preserve Bureau of Land Management’s ability to protect these areas.

The court and the BLM have agreed that the wilderness-quality lands can be protected, but they may not be called “wilderness study areas,” as they had been prior to the settlement.

Case Updates

January 12, 2006 | Reference

Unsettling Development

The Justice Department has abandoned its established role of defending federal laws & regulations. (Editorial from The Environmental Forum 1/1/04)

January 10, 2006 | Legal Document

Wilderness Inventory Complaint

Seeks to force the federal government to come clean on the backroom dealings with the State of Utah that led to a sweetheart settlement of a lawsuit by Utah challenging federal lands protections (June 2004)

January 10, 2006 | Legal Document

Wilderness Inventory Ruling

Rules that the Bush administration violated FOIA by concealing documents related to a deal cut in secret that makes development possible on millions of acres of America’s last wild lands (Oct 8, 2004)

January 10, 2006 | Legal Document

Wilderness Inventory Opening Brief

Challenging a settlement between the DOI and Utah that would wipe out the process whereby the BLM identifies which lands deserve wilderness protections, and protects them as ‘wilderness study areas' (April 5, 2003)