Environmental lawsuit prompts closures
The Stanislaus National Forest on Friday closed several off-highway-vehicle trails to motorized use as part of a settlement of a lawsuit. Several of the trails closed were short trails near a popular campground at Utica Reservoir, virtually guaranteeing that Memorial Day weekend recreationists would arrive to find unexpected closures.
The forest in 2009 designated which roads and trails within the forest would be open to motorized use. That travel management plan came after years of hearings and controversy, with environmentalists seeking to limit damage from dirt bikes and other motor vehicles and OHV enthusiasts seeking to keep as many trails open as possible.
Several environmental groups sued, saying the plan did not do enough to minimize the damage caused by motorized use. Those plaintiffs are the Wilderness Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the Central Sierra Environmental Re-source Center.
Forest Service officials said that the trail closures are temporary and affect 40.3 miles of trail in three ranger districts, or about 14 percent of the OHV trail system within the Stanislaus Forest.
Heidi Rieck, a law enforcement patrol captain for the Stanislaus Forest, said rangers would initially be educating motorized recreationists about the closures rather than issuing tickets.
We understand it takes time for people to become familiar with changes, Rieck said. After the initial educational period, we will start to incorporate other enforcement actions.
Authorities said they would publish additional information including maps at http://www.fs.usda.gov/ main/stanislaus