Picture your favorite wilderness, whether it’s the delicate alpine meadows of the High Sierras or the quiet forest trails of the Appalachian Mountains. Now picture the same scene with a dirt bike or swamp buggy in it.
Hikers aren’t allowed to blaze new paths for miles off the main trail, creating giant muddy ruts through sensitive areas. Horse packers aren’t allowed to stake their horses next to a pristine alpine lake, because it would foul pure waters.
So why shouldn’t off–road enthusiasts have to play by the rules, too?
Under new Forest Service plans, off–road riders who pioneer new roads in the wilderness will be rewarded for breaking the rules by making these routes a permanent part of the trail system.
These plans are part of a new Bush administration policy on off–highway vehicle (OHV) use adopted by the Forest Service in November 2005. Although an OHV policy is long overdue, we need to make sure that it is implemented correctly.
As written, the policy is simple and straightforward. It would require every National Forest and grassland in the country to prepare a management plan for four–wheelers, dirt bikes, four–by–fours and other all terrain vehicles. These plans would designate routes and areas where OHVs are allowed, and ban OHV use elsewhere.
FSEEE has been monitoring the on–the–ground development of these management plans, and like a lot of reasonable sounding plans put forward by the Bush Forest Service, the OHV policy is wreaking havoc where the rubber meets the road.
The White River and Lewis and Clark are two of the first National Forests to complete OHV management plans as required by the new national policy. The managers of these forests are being more than generous to the powerful OHV lobby. Under the new plans, miles of trail illegally pioneered into wild roadless areas would be designated as officially sanctioned OHV trails.
There’s nothing wrong with designating a road or trail for OHV use if it’s been carefully designed and located to minimize erosion, impacts to sensitive wildlife and other resource values. But if the first of the plans FSEEE is monitoring go through, other forests with illegally created roads and trails will undoubtedly reward this unlawful road building with official designations.
If current plans are not modified to prohibit illegally created roads and trails, off–road enthusiasts, not Forest Service scientists and engineers, will get to decide where they can ride, and dirt bikes and monster trucks will become permanent fixtures in roadless wilderness.
Across the country, thousands of miles of existing trails will be open to dirt bikes, swamp buggies and other OHVs, while hikers, packers and mountain bikers struggle to find peace and quiet on increasingly overcrowded trails and wilderness areas.
FSEEE has been a leader in the fight to protect America’s last wild forests for water quality, wildlife and for low impact recreation. Motorized recreation simply doesn’t belong in our last pristine wilderness. FSEEE and our allies won a major victory in September when Judge Elizabeth LaPorte reinstated the Clinton Roadless Rule, which makes it illegal to designate new routes for motor vehicles in 60 million acres of roadless wilderness.
We need your help to defend this landmark ruling from Bush administration attacks, and to apply this ruling to prevent illegally created OHV routes in roadless areas from becoming permanent.
With your help, FSEEE can prevent this from happening. Our plan is to:
Monitor the implementation of all National Forest OHV plans.
Comment on and administratively appeal the environ–mental impact statements for OHV management plans that allow new OHV routes to be established in roadless wilderness.
If necessary, bring litigation to stop designation of new routes in our National Forest’s last wild places.
Our strategic goal is to make sure that implementation of the OHV policy protects roadless wilderness, sensitive watersheds and critical wildlife habitat. It is essential that the first OHV management plans that are adopted set good precedents.
I hope as you read this you’re thinking about your favorite roadless wilderness, whether it’s the lonely canyon lands of northern New Mexico or the foggy rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula. Please help us keep these places looking like the picture in your mind: Quiet, still and peaceful—a haven for wildlife and the occasional adventurous human.
The new OHV policy is the Forest Service’s opportunity to address the massive environmental impacts from irresponsible off–road vehicle use. The decisions that are being made now about new routes in roadless areas will be permanent. We need your help to make sure that roadless areas are not forever compromised by motorized vehicles. We need your help to make sure that OHV users play by the rules like the rest of us.
See below for recent FSEEE press about the emasculation of NEPA and the resulting negative repercussions on forest management, including OHV policy.
P.S. You can make a donation for this project here at our secure website. Click here to go to FSEEE’s donation page.
RECENT FSEEE PRESS
There Goes the Big Picture, New Forest Plan Rule Nukes NEPA
By Brodie Farquhar, New West, December 12, 2006, and at www.truthout.org
The U.S. Forest Service finalized rules Tuesday that will allow forest officials to ignore the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when amending or writing new forest management plans. Under NEPA, public involvement and environmental analyses are required whenever the Forest Service undertakes changes to forest management plans – a process that occurs for each U.S. Forest every 15 years. However, under this new rule, any update, or significant change, would not be subject to NEPA review.…
“This is what lame–duck administrations do when they get the tar beaten out of them,” said Andy Stahl, executive director for Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, based in Oregon. “They (the Bush administration) won’t be able to get anything through Congress, so all that’s left is administrative rulings,” said Stahl – much as President Clinton did when faced with a Congress controlled by the opposing party.
During the public comment period for the new rule, Stahl testified that the proposed action was illegal. “Now we’ll go tell a judge the same thing,” he said.
Stahl will have company. “In recent years, the Forest Service has created and widely used a number of categorical exclusions that prevent NEPA review for individual timber sales,” said Tim Preso, an EarthJustice attorney based in Bozeman, Montana. “Excluding the forest plans themselves from NEPA review means that a great many of the agency’s actions will never receive a hard look at all, at any level of forest management, much less involve the public in a meaningful way.”…
“Changes in fundamental forest policy should be made with the cautious precision of a whittling knife. Instead, the Forest Service is slashing forest laws with a high–powered chain saw,” said Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D–WV), Chairman–elect of the House Committee on Resources. “This new regulation is just the latest action. The result of this new regulation is that the people will have even less ability to know about, let alone weigh in on, management of their U.S. Forest lands,” explained Rahall.
“These long–term forest plans – not site–specific project decisions – decide which areas will be open to logging, off–road vehicle use, back–country recreation, and other uses,” said EarthJustice’s Preso. “Also, these plans offer the only opportunity to take a ‘big picture’ look at how the entire forest is being managed, instead of the localized look that focuses on a project area alone. That ‘big picture’ look is critical for a number of wide–ranging wildlife species that depend on the national forests for their survival, including grizzly bears, lynx and elk.”
Dick Dolan, conservation director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said the concept that writing a plan has no environmental impact “is just not true and Pollyannish at best.” He too is concerned that there will be no “big picture” examinations of what is happening at the landscape, ecology scale.…
©2006 New West