The Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a petition Dec. 12 on behalf of approximately 22,497 individuals represented by organizations in six states to ask the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service to rescind or revise the 2005 Travel Management Rule. Sierra Access Coalition along with 18 partners played a key role as petitioners.
On Nov. 9, 2005, the Forest Service published the Travel Management Rule that “requires designation of those roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use” and “prohibit[s] the use of motor vehicles off the designated system, as well as use of motor vehicles on routes and in areas that is not consistent with the designations.”
Before the rule, motorized access in national forests was permitted unless specifically prohibited due to evidence that restricting motorized use was necessary to avoid significant damage to the environment.
“The 2005 rule essentially flipped the previous standard and now only permits motorized use on designated routes,” said Sierra Access Coalition Director Corky Lazzarino. “In some national forests, as much as 90 percent of traditional motorized access routes were eliminated.”
In the Plumas National Forest, the application of the 2005 Travel Management Rule resulted in the closure of more than 3,000 routes, comprising approximately 94 percent of the historically available motorized access routes in the forest.
In that case, the Forest Service inventoried 1,107 non-system, unclassified, historically used and lawful miles of trails, which comprise 3,236 individual routes. Only 410 of the unclassified miles (or 200 routes) received any on-site environmental impacts review, while 697 miles (or 3,036 routes) were summarily rejected from inclusion in the Plumas National Forest Travel Management Plan based upon decisions made in the office by Forest Service employees without the site-specific information required by the 2005 Travel Management Rule and the Route Designation Handbook.
The national parks and forests are designed to be accessed by the public. For many disabled and handicapped individuals, motorized access is the only way that those areas can be accessed and enjoyed.
And while national land also serves the purpose of conservation, this purpose is equal to, not greater than access rights.
The petitioners requested that the administration return to a general presumption that user-created routes and trails for access to national forests are open for motorized use, while providing a mechanism by which the Forest Service or members of the public could take action to have specific routes or trails closed for conservation purposes.
The full petition may be viewed at sierraaccess.com.
The petitioners include Corky Lazzarino, Amy Granat, Houston Gem and Mineral Society, American Lands Access Association, Great Western Trail–Wyoming Council, New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance, San Diego Mineral and Gem Society, Friend of Independence Lake, Inc., Butte Meadows Hillsliders, Magic Valley ATV Riders, Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s, Stewards of the Sequoia, Recreation Outdoors Coalition, Bucks Lake Snow Drifters Snowmobile Club, High Mountain Riders Equestrians, Sierra Access Coalition, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, La Porte Service and Repair, and Lazzarino Machine Works.
Sierra Access Coalition is a nonprofit group consisting of local businesses, user groups and individuals working primarily on the Lassen and Plumas national forests and other areas in northeast California.
Staff members are 100 percent unpaid volunteers.
SAC is concerned with the Travel Management Plan, which closed 873 miles of roads and trails on the Plumas NF and is proposing closures for snowmobiles. The group is working to protect public access to our National Forests.
For more information, visit sierraaccess.com.