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Utah Badlands Reopened To Off-Road Vehicles Spurs Lawsuit

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Environmental groups are challenging the U.S. government's decision to reopen a large swath of southern Utah's badlands to off-road vehicles.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and two other conservation organizations filed a lawsuit Thursday arguing ATV traffic will harm the endangered plants. The lands had been closed since 2006 to protect two rare species of cactus found near a towering monolith called Factory Butte that is one of the state's most distinctive geological formations.

The Bureau of Land Management reopened a 8.4-square-mile (21.8 sq. kilometer) area to off-road vehicles in May, saying in a news release it had met criteria to protect the cactus. The agency says the area is nationally renowned for off-road enthusiasts.

The agency didn't immediately have comment Thursday.

The area is about 250 miles (402 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.