Friday, 27 July 2007 00:43

National Forest OHV Routes Meeting Sees More Questions Than Answers

slide12Wednesday Night the El Dorado National Forest held a meeting in Jackson to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the new OHV trail management plan. More questions were asked that were answered- some of those questions included: Why didn’t the Forest Service acknowledge historic routes, or past decisions? If there are 15x more OHV registrations since 1989, why is the Forest Service trying to close down trails and roads, making the trails and roads even more crowded?  Is there a way to get money from OHV registrations to fix trails and roads, instead of just closing them down? And finally, if the National Direction is to eliminate dispersed camping, or camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground, how can some of the alternatives offered in the DEIS even be considered?

US Forest service staff presented the history of the Travel Management project. Frank Mosbacher the Public Affairs Officer for the El Dorado National Forest and Doug Barber one of the 4 District Rangers were both there last night, however absent from the meeting was Ramiro Villalvazo the Eldorado Forest Supervisor who will be making the final decision regarding the project. The reason for his absence was a personal family matter. Jason Nedlo, Travel Management Team Leader, presented the DEIS. He gave the Background, Purpose and Need, Alternatives, Comparison of Alternatives, Preferred Alternatives, Implementation, the FS and Public’s Next Steps in moving from the draft to final impact statement. Over the past 10 years OHV registration has increased 15x. This trend caused Former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth to identify unmanaged OHV recreation as one of the Four Key Threats Facing the Nations’ Forests. As part of a lawsuit settlement over the issue, on August 16th 2005 a U.S. District Court ordered the Eldorado National Forest to withdraw its 1990 OHV plan and to present a final new EIS on a new OHV plan by December 31, 2007. 

slide26 The alternative maps were created from public meetings which began in December of 2005. There were however significant issues which came from public comments during these meetings, one being: “A reduction in motorized routes and a prohibition on cross country travel and seasonal closures during wet weather periods will adversely affect forest visitors and adjacent landowners.” From these meetings 5 alternatives were announced. They include Alternative A which is called the No-Action alternative; this continues use on 2,003 miles of existing roads and 249 miles of existing trails. There are no special designations, no prohibitions on cross country travel and no seasonal closures. Also, no regulation for over the snow travel with public wheeled motor vehicles, and areas for parking/dispersed camping could continue to be used by the public. Alternative A seemed to be the most popular among those at the meeting. Alternative B would provide a high level of motorized recreation allowing for the use of 1120 miles of roads and 240 miles of trails with Seasonal closure from Jan. 1st through March 31st. Alternative C, which was the initially proposal, would allow use on 1,064 miles of roads and 177 miles of trails. Cross country travel would be prohibited and a seasonal closure from Nov 1 – April 30 would be enforced. Alternative D, which is the preferred alternative by the US Forest Service Supervisor at this point, allows for 844 miles of roads and 217 miles of trails with all public wheeled motor vehicle cross country travel prohibited. Seasonal closures from Dec 1 – April 30 would be enforced. Alternative E focused on providing the greatest protection for forest resources and increasing opportunities for non-motorized recreational activities while most severely restricting OHV usage. This would allow only 751 miles of roads and 136 miles of trails with seasonal Closure from Jan 1 – March 31. 

The alternatives at the meeting that drew the most attention were A and D. The public’s choice vs. the Forest Supervisors’ favored alternative.  The public was encouraged to submit specific comments on the DEIS routes, areas, and any elements they felt needed to be amended. It was also requested that when commenting people submit their name and address. This gives the public legal standing to appeal the decision under government code. If a comment is made anonymously the comment will be accepted and considered, but there would be no legal standing to appeal. Comments may be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Forest Supervisor, Ramiro Villalvazo Attn: ENF Travel Management DEIS, Eldorado National Forest,100 Forni Road, Placerville Ca, 95667.The comment deadline is September 4th. .No decisions were reached Wednesday night as it was a meeting for clarification only, however frustration during the meeting was evident from those in attendance with Supervisor Brian Oneto summing up the crowd’s feelings “the system is broken”