For Immediate Release, February 28, 2008
Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Don Hoffman, White Mountain Conservation League (928) 339-4426
Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, (928) 638-2304
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 253-8633
Apache-Sitgreaves Off-road Vehicle Plan Will Put
Arizona’s Crown Jewel White Mountains at Risk
SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.– The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest plan to create new off-road vehicle trails and allow vehicles in Inventoried Roadless Areas will destroy untold acres of public land, said conservation groups Thursday. The new plan, announced February 22, creates new off-road trails near wilderness areas, disturbs designated critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, and opens new areas to cross-country off-roading on sensitive lands.
This proposed action is a revised version of the plan released to the public in October 2007, developed after public meetings where off-road vehicle advocates opposed the original plan and sought unlimited use of the forest. The Forest Service proposal designates six areas in the Black Mesa Ranger District open to off-road motorized travel and allows campers to drive up to 300 feet from the center of the road along nearly 1,000 miles of forest roads to find camping spots. Some of the roads open to off-road travel are adjacent to the Inventoried Roadless Areas, the Escuadilla Wilderness, and the Blue Range Primitive Area, where expansion of motorized access is prohibited.
"The Apache-Sitgreaves is an incredibly rich, diverse forest that serves as a refuge for disappearing species like the Mexican spotted owl and Apache trout, and serves as core habitat for black bear and mountain lion," said Cyndi Tuell, public lands advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Apache-Sitgreaves can only afford to maintain 33 percent of its current road network as it is. This plan is appalling as well as fiscally irresponsible."
“Between the ORV play areas and the 600-foot-wide dispersed camping corridors, the forest has opened approximately 75,000 acres to cross-country travel,” points out Kim Crumbo, conservation director of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. “That action contradicts the purpose of the Travel Management process and is simply unacceptable.”
“There are some areas where designated ORV trails can be accommodated, but frankly we were shocked to see the proposed trails are within some of the most sensitive places,” said Don Hoffman of the White Mountain Conservation League. “Designated ORV trails will undoubtedly draw increased use. Sanctioning ORV trails along streams, within supposedly protected habitat, and near wilderness areas would diminish these special areas.”
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest serves as a critical watershed for much of Arizona. More than 370 miles of currently closed roads will be opened to motorized recreation, and nearly 100 miles of new motorized trails will be established under the current plan. The plan will also allow motorized big-game retrieval for up to one mile from a motorized route throughout much of the forest.
“Our public lands are under increasing pressure from nearby development and increased use by off-road vehicles and at a time when there are increasing budget issues, the last thing the Forest Service should be doing is opening up more areas they cannot maintain,” said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We need to protect these lands for future generations, not leave them decimated by irresponsible off-road vehicle use.”
The Apache-Sitgreaves is now seeking public input on the recently released Travel Management Plan Proposed Action. Public meetings will be held March 6th and 8th in Show Low, Springerville, Clifton, Safford, Heber, and Alpine. For information on the times and locations of these meetings, visit the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest website at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The White Mountain Conservation League is a nonprofit group dedicated to conserving our natural resources and promoting a sustainable economy.
The Grand Canyon Wildlands Council is devoted to the protection and restoration of wild nature throughout northern Arizona and southern Utah.
The Sierra Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, the Sierra Club’s more than 1.2 members and supporters — including more than 14,000 members in Arizona — work together to protect our communities and the planet.