The November Subpart A Letter from the US Forest Service Washington Office National Forest System Deputy Chief Joel D. Holtrop to Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director, Deputy Chiefs, and WO Directors.
That letter can be found at www.ufwda.org/smf/index.php?topic=3307WHAT IT MEANS TO UFWDA AND ITS MEMBERS
By: Carla Boucher, Attorney
On November 10, 2010 Deputy Chief, National Forest System, Joel D. Holtrop issued a communication regarding Travel Management and Implementation of the Travel Management Rule, Subpart A (36 CFR 212.5(b)). To understand the meaning of this communication is it necessary to understand the context in which the letter arose.
On 11/09/2005 the U.S. Forest issued a final rule for Travel Management; Designated
Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use. The purpose of the rule was to clearly identify roads, trail, and areas for motor vehicle use on each National Forest to enhance management of the forests, sustain natural resource values through more effective management of motor vehicle use, enhance opportunities for motorized recreation experiences on the forests, address need for access to forests, and to preserve opportunities for nonmotorized travel and experiences. The rule outlined the process for travel management in several parts. Part 212, Travel Management, contained subparts A – C. Subpart A pertains to the Administration of the Forest Transportation System, Subpart B pertains to the Designation of Roads, Trails and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use, and Subpart C pertains to Use by Over-Snow Vehicles.
Since the rule was finalized in 2005 the Forest Service, in cooperation with many motor vehicle user groups, including UFWDA, has worked to meets its requirements of Subpart B to designate roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use, culminating in Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs). As of November 10, 2010, the agency estimates that 67% of forests are covered by a MVUM and anticipate that 93% of the forests will have a completed MVUM by 12/31/2010.
As the end of 2010 draws near and the agency reaches full compliance with the production of MVUMs for nearly all forest units, the agency has issued internal guidance on its next undertaking to implement the requirements of Subpart A – administration of the forest transportation system. In particular, the letter from Deputy Chief Holtrop focuses attention on the agency’s commitment to identify the minimum road system needed and identification of roads that are no longer needed and therefore should be decommissioned or considered for other uses.
The process envisioned through Subpart A will result in a road system that provides needed access for recreation, resource management, and the sustainability of healthy ecosystems. The process for carrying out the requirements of Subpart A are identified by the agency through its Manual and Handbook. These internal processes require each forest to use a “science-based” roads analysis to identify the minimum road system and unneeded roads. The analysis itself is not a decision document but rather documentation the agency will later rely upon in making travel management decisions. Roads Analysis was undertaken in 1999 under Forest Service roads analysis process (RAP) that also identified the “minimum road system necessary for public and administrative use. Many, if not most, of those Roads Analysis reports failed to take into consideration the necessity of Maintenance Level 1 and 2 roads – ML1 are roads closed to vehicle use and ML2 are roads suitable only for high-clearance vehicles. The focus in 1999 did not include an evaluation of the need for roads of recreational value.
The November 10th Subpart A letter tells the forests that Roads Analysis conducted under the 1999 guidelines will satisfy the roads analysis requirements of Subpart A of the Travel Management Rule. But in a contradictory statement, the November 10th letter also indicates that all NFS roads, maintenance levels 1-5, must be included in the analysis. These statements are contradictory in the case where the 1999 analysis only evaluated a road system with Maintenance Level 3-5 roads.
UFWDA has joined with the following national recreation organizations to send a strong unified message to the Forest Service regarding our wishes for a more clear direction from Deputy Chief Holtrop. The letter is attached for your review signed by Americans for Responsible Recreational Access, American Council of Snowmobile Associations, American Motorcyclist Association, BlueRibbon Coalition, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, Off-Road Business Association, Personal Watercraft Industry Association, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Specialty Equipment Market Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, TreadLightly!, and United Four Wheel Drive Associations. We are collectively asking the agency to reissue the guidance and when doing so (1) emphasize forest authority to identify roads that could be considered for other uses such as trails as a viable option to decommissioning; (2) emphasize the authority and need to analyze roads not identified on the MVUM for their ability to meet travel management objectives before they are decommissioned; (3) instruct forests that roads already designated on an MVUM should not be considered for decommissioning; and (4) clarify that the Travel Management Rule was promulgated for the purpose of addressing “unmanaged” recreation and not to “stop uncontrolled cross-county motor vehicle use” as the original November 10th letter states.
Our goal at UFWDA, and one we are confident is shared by our national recreation partners, is to work with the agency early on in this process as they begin to identify the minimum road system necessary for recreation and resource management objectives rather than waiting until later in the game when it becomes much harder and more expensive to change the course of agency action. The public will be given an opportunity to share in the progress the agency makes when it undertakes analysis. As that process begins to unfold across the country
UFWDA will provide updates and guidance to members so that they may fully participate for the protection of four wheel drive roads. If you are not currently on the mailing list for four wheel drive related projects in your local forest ranger district contact the Forest Service and ask that they add you to their list.