Off Road Vehicles: A Threat to Our National Forests

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Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Off-road_vehiclesPlease take a moment to comment on the Off Road routes in Six Rivers National Forest. The Forest Service must manage public lands in an ecologically sustainable manner that protects soil and water resources, streams, stream banks, shorelines, wetlands, fish and wildlife, and the diversity of plant and animal communities.  The Travel Management Rule of 2005 mandates all National Forests to A.) Determine the minimum road system needed and to “right size” the road system in order to keep only the roads that they can afford to maintain and B.)  Designate roads, trails and areas that are open to motor vehicle use, which would be added to the National Forest Transportation System.
The Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests have recently released their plans for adding and designating OHV routes in our watersheds. We are extremely disappointed that they insist on ignoring Subpart A of the Travel Management Rule.  These forests have rare botanical resources, which have been unnecessarily damaged by motorized vehicles.  The designation of a significant amount of currently unauthorized OHV routes for motorized use in Inventoried Roadless Areas, habitat for sensitive plant species, sensitive wildlife species, in Riparian and Late Successional Reserves, and in or adjacent to Botanical Areas have potential to conflict with traditional recreational users seeking quiet recreation and are causing unnecessary destruction.

The Forest Service has a nondiscretionary duty to identify the minimum roads system. We are very concerned that no attempt has been made by the agency to identify the minimum road system. This is particularly troubling given the massive road maintenance backlog on National Forests and the extreme impact the road system is having on the hydrological, biological and botanical values of the Forest.

Further, the purpose of Subpart A (of the Travel Management Rule) is for each unit of the National Forest System to determine a minimum road system in order to establish the means for “safe and efficient” travel and it requires the agency to identify and decommission unneeded roads.  It is unacceptable for the Forest Service to ignore the regulations and guidance that call for resource protection while preparing documents that will add significant additional road and trail mileage to the Forest Service road system.

Road density is an important indicator of such things as habitat fragmentation, the potential for wildlife harassment, visual quality, recreation opportunities, the cumulative potential for erosion and sedimentation from road surfaces, and cumulative increases in peak flow due to runoff from road surfaces and ditches.  Consequently, the proposed Environmental Impact Statements should include a plan to close and decommission unnecessary or damaging roads to reduce road density in these forests.

To send a message to Six Rivers National Forest through EPIC’s online action center, click here!