Friday, August 14, 2009

Green Groups Defend OHV Trails in Roadless Areas

With the “roadless” issue in the news today, The General wants to remind riders to be ever vigilant on your watch regarding the designation (or lack thereof) of OHV trails in roadless areas.

See LA Times Article with quote from BRC’s Attorney – Paul Turcke,0,1222397.story

BRC has long held and argued that the Clinton Roadless Rule was illegal. Those of us involved in the issue (myself since 1998) knew that no plan crafted in a DC smoke-filled room would past muster.

On behalf of the BRC, I had reminded many Forests (including our successful appeal on the Six Rivers NF) in the TMR process of the following facts:

The BlueRibbon Coalition believes that Region 5 and the Smith River NRA have improperly concluded that existing routes within “roadless areas” must be closed and/or not designated as a result of the 2001 Roadless Rule. This interpretation is contrary to the plain language of that Rule. In fact, the strongest proponents of the Roadless Rule have consistently pointed to the fact that the Rule preserves existing motorized access in defending the Rule as a necessary and balanced management tool.

Preservationist interests “defended” motorized access to roadless areas in their strong opposition to the intervention of access-advocacy interests in California ex rel Lockyer et al. v. U.S.D.A., Case No. 05-3508 (N.D.Cal.). That case, consolidated with a similar action brought by private groups led by The Wilderness Society (“TWS”) sought to challenge the 2005 State Petitions Rule. The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, American Council of Snowmobile Associations and BlueRibbon Coalition moved to intervene. The preservationist plaintiffs opposed, arguing “the interests that the Off-Road Vehicle Groups assert in motorized recreation in roadless areas are not at stake in this action.” Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Motion to Intervene (Doc. No. 79) at 7 Case Nos. 05-3508 and 05-4038 (N.D.Cal.)(March 7, 2006) In reaching this conclusion, the TWS plaintiffs summarized language from the Rule and its associated planning documents, stating “[i]n sum, even if the Roadless Rule is reinstated by this Court as plaintiffs request, it will not prohibit a single person’s off-road vehicle use or close a single off-road vehicle trail as alleged by the Off-Road Vehicle Groups’ declarants.” Id. at 5. The TWS surreply clarifies and extends on these conclusions, again saying the “Roadless Rule does not close any existing vehicular routes (ORV or otherwise) in any National Forest roadless areas.” Plaintiffs’ Surreply in Opposition to Intervention (Doc. No. 100) at 1, Case Nos. 05-3508 and 05-4038 (N.D.Cal.)(March 24, 2006) . That document goes on to address specific routes of concern identified by BlueRibbon declarant Don Amador and says “[a]s to the two routes Mr. Amador might hypothetically use for ORV recreation … neither route is more than 50 inches wide, and therefore the Roadless Rule would not even apply to them.” Id. at 2.

Riders should support those Forests who have correctly interpreted the Clinton Roadless Rule as allowing for designated OHV trails in inventoried roadless areas. If local users spot a trail that has been excluded from designation based on the “roadless” issue, they should cite the above information and remind the Forest that green groups support OHV trails in roadless areas.

As Turcke stated in the LA article…The Roadless Saga Continues.


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