U.S. Forest Service seeks input on motorized use
Dianne Stallings firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Launched: 03/20/2007 10:18:52 PM MDT
Deciding where motorized vehicles should be allowed to operate in the Lincoln National Forest may take two years to pin down on a map and U.S. Forest Service officials want plenty of public input.
Public Information Officer Joe Garcia and Connie Zipperer with the Lincoln National Forest's Alamogordo office briefed county commissioners Tuesday on what will be required to formulate rules for a Travel Management Plan in compliance with federal law effective December 2005.
Because motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and other motorized transport may adversely impact natural resources, forest service officials need feedback from forest users about areas of special value and suggestions on trails, roads and tracts that may be appropriate for motorized use year-round or during designated times of the year based on weather, breeding habitat or other issues.
Federal law will prohibit motor vehicle use outside the designated system and, once the map is completed, people using motorized transport will be required to carry a map with them to show they are aware of designations and rules, Zipperer said.
"Each year new unplanned roads and trails are created," she said. They cause erosion and degradation of natural resources, soil
concerns, as well as encourage invasive weeds that crowd out forage for wildlife.
According to information on the Lincoln National Forest Web site for the Travel Management Plan, "The number of off-highway vehicle (OHV) users in the U.S. has climbed tenfold in the past 32 years, from approximately 5 million in 1972 to 51 million in 2004.
The Forest Service now manages more than 300,000 miles of road and 35,000 miles of trail for motor vehicle use. More than 11 million people using OHVs visited national forest and grasslands in 2004. While most people ride responsibly, a few riders leave lasting impacts by traveling off roads and trails and creating unauthorized routes. Unmanaged OHV use affects wetlands and wildlife habitat, erodes soils, damages cultural resources and spreads invasive species."
Roads under state, county or local road authorities are not subject to the rules and valid existing rights will be recognized, she said.
Different types of vehicles may be limited to specific areas, such as only motorcycles or a mix of ATVs and other vehicles.
Exemptions cover aircraft, watercraft, over-the-snow vehicles, emergency vehicles, national defense actions, law enforcement needs and specific written authorizations, Zipp-erer said.
Dispersed camping and game retrieval access may be provided in response to local situations, she said.
Commission Chairman Tom Battin asked if mountain bikes are covered by the rules, but Zipperer said not if they have no motor. Electric motors would be covered.
Ruidoso resident Bart Young asked how destruction by logging and mining interests will be controlled, because those activities "leave a mess."
Zipperer said they should fall under a specific contract or authorization and they "most definitely will be responsible for the condition of the land when they are completed."
Oscura resident Jerry Carroll asked about the definition of "surface disturbance," so that "everyone knows what rules we're playing by." Zipperer suggested Carroll write up questions for a public meeting in May detailing his concerns about limiting public access to his mining patent in the Jicarilla Mountains.
"We need guidance from the public and the regional forester," she said.
A meeting on putting together a map with designated areas is set for 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., May 7, at the Ruidoso Convention Center. A map outlining the portion of the forest under review is posted at the Smokey Bear Ranger District office on Mechem Drive and Cedar Creek Drive.
For more information, contact the forest team leader Peg Crim or Zipperer at 1101 New York Ave., Alamogordo, NM 88310 or call 505-434-7200, or e-mail LNFtravel@fs.fed.us