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ENVIRONMENTALISTS SAY REVIEW ON BURR TRAIL HALF-SATISFACTORY

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Recent findings in a federal review that an environmental assessment on the Burr Trail reconstruction project was insufficient and must be completed for the entire project has environmentalists only half satisfied.

The Department of Interior's Board of Land Appeals decided the environmental analysis done for the first segment of the road was sufficient and that Garfield County has established right of way on the section to Long Canyon, said attorney Bill Lockhart of Salt Lake City.Those findings are expected to bring the county back into court to request that an injunction be lifted that is preventing further development of the Burr Trail road.

But Lockhart indicated the county can expect a fight for continued injunction until the environmental assessment issue is resolved.

Lockhart, co-counsel for several environmental groups that have challenged the road project, summarized the latest developments in the case Saturday during an awards program at the annual roundup of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

SUWA executive director Brant Calkin presented the first of the group's awards to Lockhart, recognizing the "sheer intellectual value" of the attorney in the environmental movement. Calkin called Lockhart "the patriarch, the professor of activism" in Utah.

"The Burr Trail, state lands, water rights, nuclear waste - almost any issue in the past 10 years or so, this person has been involved in, and there is nobody who has ever called on him who has been turned away," Calkin said.

Lockhart said he was notified late last week that the Interior land appeals board has concluded that a federal environmental analysis of the road project should have addressed potential impacts to wilderness study areas the length of the route instead of only the first segment.

As a result of the findings, the federal appeals board will order the Bureau of Land Management in Garfield County to "go back to the drawing board" and complete the assessment in compliance with standards of the National Environmental Protection Act, Lockhart said.

Lockhart, with co-counselors William Petty and Lori Potter, has represented SUWA, the National Parks and Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and Utah Wilderness Society in court challenges to the Burr Trail project.

While the appeals board agreed environmental studies associated with the project were not comprehensive enough, other findings of the board were not altogether to Lockhart's liking.

He said the board agreed with Utah district court Judge Aldon Anderson and the District Court of Appeals in Denver that the county had established right of way on the specific portion of road questioned in the case, according to tenets of an 1866 law.

That segment stretches from the western boundary of Capitol Reef National Park halfway to Boulder.

"Not only is there right of way, but it can be developed by the county as long as it stays within the right of way," Lockhart said.

Lockhart said what remains worrisome is that the court decision on right of way on the first section implies intent to recognize the county's right of way on the whole road from the national park to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

"We're obviously going to have to challenge that," he said.