Sonora, CA… A settlement agreement on the 2010 litigation of the 2009 Stanislaus National Forest (NF) Motorized Travel Management decision was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California today and is effective immediately. The U.S. Forest Service and the plaintiffs to the litigation (The Wilderness Society; Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility; and the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center) reached an agreement that balances the plaintiffs’ concerns while retaining the majority of motorized Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) routes made in the 2009 decision for recreational use...
The agreement does involve temporary route closures, but these closures do not affect the existing road system. Trail closures affect about 14 percent of the OHV trail system.
“Diverse riding and driving opportunities for motorized recreation and dispersed camping still abound on the forest with over 230 miles of OHV trails available,” said Susan Skalski, Forest Supervisor, Stanislaus NF.
As part of the settlement agreement, for an interim period of time until other analysis is completed, the Forest will close to motorized use 40.34 miles of routes (86 OHV trail segments) on three ranger districts: the Calaveras, Mi-Wok and Groveland. 18.19 miles of routes (49 OHV trail segments) currently open will be closed effective May 23. Twenty-two and a quarter miles of routes (37 trail routes) that are not currently open because mitigations required in the Forest Supervisor’s 2009 Record of Decision are not complete, will remain closed.
“Enforcement during the initial closure and implementation period will focus on facilitating change through advising visitors and providing information to public land users,” said Heidi Rieck, Law Enforcement Patrol Captain, Stanislaus NF. “We understand it takes time for people to become familiar with changes. After the initial educational period, we will start to incorporate other enforcement actions.”
Officers do have and will apply enforcement discretion in issuing citations to forest users.
In order to address the court’s concerns, during the closure, the Forest will take steps to show how it is applying the Forest Service’s 2005 Travel Rule minimization criteria to the 2009 Decision. When making decisions to designate routes for public motorized use, the 2005 Travel Rule requires the Forest to consider the effects on Forest resources with the objective of minimizing damage. It has not been determined how long this analysis may take or how long the routes will be closed. A new Motor Vehicle Use Map has been published and can be obtained at any Stanislaus NF district office or the Forest Supervisor’s Office.
The Stanislaus National Forest (STF) is actively engaged in management of its transportation system. The objectives of transportation planning are to: provide access to recreation facilities and opportunities for the public and partners; access for resource management, including fire protection and suppression; and to maintain an affordable/manageable transportation system while meeting the management needs of the Forest. The Forest is guided by the Travel Management Rule (36 CFR Part 212) and the Forest Service Manuals and Handbooks (7700).
Information regarding litigation of the 2009 Motorized Travel Management decision, the decision and the settlement agreement with the list of trails will be posted on the Stanislaus NF website by May 31.
For more information about this news release or to speak with a Visitor Information Specialist about forest information and recreation opportunities, call the Stanislaus Supervisor’s Office at: 209-532-3671; Calaveras Ranger District (RD) at 209-795-1381; Groveland RD at 209-962-7825; Mi-Wok RD at 209-586-3234; or Summit RD at 209-965-3434.