ACTION ALERT – November 2, 2012 Update on Eldorado NF SEIS – Comment Due Nov. 7!
Last month, the Eldorado National Forest issued formal notice that they will conduct an environmental analysis that will determine whether portions of 42 travel routes that were closed by court order will be re-opened to public wheeled motor vehicle use. (Read previous alert here)
As many of you know, portions of 42 routes on the Eldorado National Forest were closed by court order last July. These closures were far from welcome, but were a far cry from those sought by anti-access activists in their sweeping challenge of the 2008 Travel Plan. The closure of the 42 "meadow routes" is based on a technical violation of the Eldorado Forest Plan.
Our initial review of the proposed action suggests it will be a step toward restoring important access. Although the overall route mileage involved is not large, some of these routes represent the only remaining access to treasured destinations, necessary connectors in popular loop opportunities and cherry stems deliberately placed by Congress between adjacent Wilderness designations.
We remain encouraged that the Forest Service apparently sees the value in restoring sustainable public access in these circumstances. The Eldorado NF has conducted most of the required analysis mandated by the technical requirements of the Forest Plan, and now begins the public planning process that will determine the long-term status for these routes.
BRC believes it is important for access interests to make comments about specific trails related to their recreational and access values. These comments are due November 7. Upon further review of the Proposed Action, BRC has developed some key tenets to consider when making your comments.
KEY BULLET POINTS
The agency correctly states that the routes in the PA were designated for use in the 2008 EIS.
Users should appreciate the efforts the Forest Supervisor and her staff undertook in development of the SEIS including the Proposed Action.
It is critically important for the agency to restore access to the “meadow routes” included in the Proposed Action since those routes are an integral part of the minimally functional network of motorized trails proposed for designation in the 2008 FEIS/ROD.
Preceding the 2008 decision was a “court-ordered” 2,340 miles of system routes with additional historic unauthorized routes designated for motorized use.
The 2008 decision (Modified Alt. B) reduced the motorized route mileage to approximately 1,800 miles.
All of the 2008 FEIS/ROD alternatives were closure alternatives and substantially decreased the linear mileage of roads and trails for continuing motorized use.
The 2008 decision (including the 42 meadow routes) represents the bare remaining thread of access to important destinations or system road/trail components.
The Proposed Action correctly restores connectivity of the skeleton route network proposed in the 2008 FEIS/ROD.
Failure to designate these routes could actually harm the physical environment by creating a motorized trail network of insufficient size, scope, and diversity to meet the Forest’s purpose and need for public access, as well as any common sense backbone transportation network sufficient to satisfy and properly disperse public use of the Forest.
Again,it has been a brutal fight. But we are still riding. We know anti-recreation extremists remain fixated on using the courts to close whatever the agency leaves open. The BlueRibbon Legal Team, with partners like the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, California Enduro Riders Association and AMA District 36, are proud to be part of the effort to keep the Eldorado NF open to OHV use.
Below are links to information about the process from the USFS, as well as a brief history of the long-running litigation on the Eldorado NF. BRC will work with our litigation partners and others to develop some comment suggestions in the very near future. Stay tuned!
PS Everyone at BRC and our partners like the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, California Enduro Riders Association and AMA District 36 appreciates your support in our longstanding effort to defend reasonable access to the Eldorado. Thank you!
Eldorado NF Releases Travel Management Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (TM SEIS) On Re-opening Routes Closed via Court Order http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/eldorado/home/?cid=STELPRDB5362046
BRC and Legal Partners Object to Court Ordered Interim Closures http://www.sharetrails.org/news/2012/04/05/brc-and-legal-partners-object-court-ordered-interim-closures
Brief History of Legal Battle over Eldorado NF http://www.sharetrails.org/legal/eldorado