Superior Forest off-road vehicle plan sent back
Concerns over air quality in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness have forced Superior National Forest officials to re-work at least part of its long-term plan for off-road vehicle travel.
The U.S. Forest Service regional forester this week rejected the travel plan that was completed in December, sending it back to Duluth for Superior Forest officials to re-work.
The travel plan was appealed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Minnesota center for Environmental Advocacy, Friends of the Boundary Waters, Sierra Club and other groups.
The groups appealed the forest’s decision to allow motorized travel on more than 1,600 miles of roads and trails in the Superior National Forest, citing problems with air quality, water quality, noise pollution, and a failure to protect threatened species such as lynx and wolves.
The BWCAW is afforded special air protections under the federal Clean Air Act.
Environmentalists say the Superior Forest officials until now have considered the impact of ATVs the same as passenger cars, even though ATVs can go deeper into otherwise untraveled areas of the forest.
The regional forester’s decision acknowledges “that moving forward with this plan without taking a hard look at the environmental impacts of off-road vehicles was a mistake,” said Cyndi Tuell, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement Friday.
Roseann Hess, acting superintendent while Jim Sanders is out of the office, said Superior Forest staff only recently learned of the regional decision.
“It’s a very specific part of the entire plan, but we haven’t had our discussion with the regional office yet on how we should proceed,’’ Hess said.
In addition to appealing the plan within the Forest Service system, groups also can file legal challenges to Forest Service deicisions.
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