Silvia M. Riechel, of the Interior Board of Land Appeals, stated this month that the trail is in violation of the proclamation that created the new Bears Ears National Monument. The trail is within the monument boundaries.
The ruling stops construction or use of the trail until after a lawsuit by environmental groups is settled.
The trail had recently been approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in December, 2016 after an exhaustive 12-year process.
BLM approval of the trail was made on December 15, 2016, nearly two weeks before the December 28 declaration of the Bears Ears National Monument.
The declaration specifically states that it does not impact valid rights within the monument borders that existed before the designation. The BLM and San Juan County argue that the trail was approved before the designation and was a valid existing right.
The environmental groups that filed the appeal state that the trail was not yet valid because the 30-day appeal period was still in effect when the designation was made.
They claim the proclamation also states that any additional roads or trails designated for motorized use are restricted to those necessary for public safety or protection of objects covered by the proclamation.
Judge Riechel ruled favorably on the arguments of the environmental groups. The Grand Canyon Trust, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club filed the appeal.
In 2005, San Juan County initiated a process to connect a number of trails in the Indian Creek Canyon area with existing routes in Lockhart Basin and Davis Canyon.
The trail approved by the BLM includes areas near the Hamburger Rock and Creek Pasture campgrounds. The BLM had assumed responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the trail.
The BLM had approved the project in 2015, but that decision was appealed. The new decision includes several new features, including a revised Environmental Assessment, more documentation of potential effects on cultural resources along connecting routes, a better explanation regarding riparian resources and mitigation, and an expanded noise analysis.