Guys, just a reminder that next week concludes the comment period for the South Rampart Travel Management Plan. You can see what's going on via their website, download maps and compare them, etc., here:http://http://www.southrampart.net/home
To follow, the comment I sent in. Hope it gives y'all ideas.
October 10, 2011
Attn: South Rampart TMP EA
240 E. Mountain Ave.
Fort Collins, CO 80524
RE: Substantive Comment as per 36 CFR 215.2 regarding the South Rampart Travel Management Plan Draft Environmental Assessment. This comment is submitted via USPS certified mail and electronically via www.southrampart.net/comment_on_draft_ea
To Whom It May Concern:
I am in general agreement that Alternative B should be adopted. However, three roads that are scheduled to be closed under that alternative should remain open. There are two reasons for this: 1. Their closure appears to be capricious and arbitrary; 2. Their closure does not conform to the requirements of federal law.
The roads that should remain open under implementation of Alternative B are FSR 300.F, FSR 324.B, and FSR 327*. The reason their closure appears to be capricious and arbitrary is because there is no consistency among the alternatives. It therefore stands to reason that there are no valid and reliable reasons for closing these roads. More specifically, FSR 300.F would be closed under Alternatives B and C; FSR 324.B and FSR 327 would be closed only under Alternative B. Also to consider is that the DEA (Appendix A) has rated many other roads similarly, yet they are scheduled to remain open under Alternative B. Some examples include, and are not limited to, FSR’s 311, 314, 332, 352, etc. As it pertains to FSR 300.F, under Alternative B this road is to be closed and redesignated for Administrative/Special Use and closed to public vehicles. This, however, despite the fact that the travel analysis process (TAP) identified this road to be of low value in regard to special use and forest management access. Moreover, under Alternative C this road would remain open to all forms of access. Clearly there is a lack of consistency with planning regarding this road. When balanced against the fact that these are all well-established roads with wonderful vistas and access to explorations of wonderful natural features, the capricious, arbitrary, and nonsensical closure of these roads under Alternative B would logically follow to be inappropriate. Therefore, the adoption of Alternative B should include keeping these roads open.
Additional considerations that speak to the need for these roads to remain open lie in the fact that various legal requirements for their closure have not been met. I specifically refer to 36 CFR 212 et seq. and 36 CFR 220 et seq. More specifically, 36 CFR 212.5.b.1 calls for the use of a science-based approach to determining the road system. Moreover, as per 36 CFR 212.5.b.2 the responsible official is to “identify the roads on lands under Forest Service jurisdiction that are no longer needed to meet forest resource management objectives and that, therefore, should be decommissioned or considered for other uses, such as for trails.” Based on the above, and the fact that the Draft EA does not address the scientific reasons for why these specific roads should be closed under Alternative B, particularly in light of many other roads of very similar status (I refer you again to Appendix A of the DEA) that remain open, it is inappropriate, if not illegal, to close these roads until such time as the steps outlined under 36 CFR 212 et seq. have been observed.
The closure of roads, as it specifically applies to FSR’s 324.B and FSR 327, requires the implementation of NEPA (36 CFR 220 et seq.). 36 CFR 220.4.a clarifies that the action of closing these roads requires NEPA and this action is not exempt from NEPA under 42 USC 4332.2.c. In addition, Categorical Exclusions do not apply as described under 36 CFR 220.6 and 7 CFR 1.b.3. Finally, 36 CFR 220 et seq. identifies the specific steps that the Forest Service must undertake regarding scoping, FONSI, notice, etc. The South Rampart Travel Management Plan Draft Environmental Assessment does not meet any of those requirements as they specifically relate to the closure of 324.B and FSR 327. Therefore the Forest Service has not obtained the legal authority to close these roads and until such time they must remain open, even under the adoption of Alternative B. Put another way, the South Rampart Travel Management Plan Draft Environmental Assessment does not provide this district of the Forest Service carte blanche in arbitrarily and capriciously closing roads; NEPA must still be applied to specific closures.
* Please note that FSR 327 is not identified by number on the DEA maps (Alternatives A-C). It is, however, identified in the maps generated for previously held public meetings. To find this road in the DEA, focus on the northern portion of the EA area and find the intersection of FSR’s 351 and 300. FSR 327 is the continuation of FSR 351 as it extends east of FSR 300.