As OHV enthusiasts prepare public comments due April 8 for the Eldorado National Forest SEIS, long time recreation advocates have reacted to the latest development in this almost never-ending travel planning and litigation saga.
“We hope the Eldorado is finally moving toward defensible authorization of historical access on these treasured high elevation trails,” said Don Amador, BlueRibbon Coalition Western Representative. Pro-recreation intervenors including the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, California Enduro Riders Association, American Motorcyclist Association District 36, and BlueRibbon Coalition have participated in all aspects of the planning process and earlier litigation starting back in 2002.
The groups were generally pleased with the May, 2011 decision of the federal court for the Eastern District of California that rejected the majority of challenges brought against the Forest by preservationist groups lead by the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation.
As part of that decision, the court remanded analysis of 42 routes to the Forest which the court found bisected “meadows” as defined by the Forest Plan and therefore required further analysis. The initial proposed action in the Forest’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“SEIS”) would restore access to the vast majority of the 42 routes. However, the recently-released revised SEIS contains a “preferred alternative” which would designate a smaller portion of the routes for initial use and conditionally designate some of the routes for vehicle travel, based on the finding that specified trail maintenance or mitigation projects must be completed before the public can resume vehicle travel.
“We believe conditional designation is an appropriate and potentially valid travel management tool. It has been used successfully on the Sierra and Inyo National Forest’s to reopen important routes. We are concerned that this will be perceived a step backwards by the Eldorado. We are committed to working with the Forest and other partners such as the California OHV Division to ensure that the specified actions are expeditiously completed and travel restored on these iconic routes,” noted Jim Bramham, Northern Resources Consultant for the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs.
“We appreciate the challenges the Forest faces, particularly in light of recent legal developments. However, it is essential the Forest return here to basic tenets of active and effective recreation management,” concluded Amador.
The Recreational Group intervenors urge access supporters to submit written comments and attend the remaining public meetings today and tomorrow as listed below:
March 5, 2013 - 4 PM to 8 PM, Turtle Rock Community Center, 17300 State Route 89, Markleeville, CA
March 6, 2013 - 3 PM to 8 PM, Amador County Supervisor's Office; 810 Court Street, Jackson, CA
We have set up a letter generator at http://cal4wheel.com/action-center that will automatically send your comments to the appropriate email address. All you need to do is write your own comments in the box provided.
Click here to view the SEIS, list of routes and maps
Click here to view the court history of this legal fight