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For Immediate Release, March 26, 2009


Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Bryan Bird, WildEarth Guardians, (505) 501-4488

Mountainair Ranger District Developing Responsible Off-road Vehicle Plan  

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The Cibola National Forest released a proposal today that will limit off-road vehicle use and bring the road system on the Mountainair Ranger District more in line with what the forest can afford to maintain and enforce.

“In this instance, the Forest Service is taking significant strides toward developing a manageable, affordable road system,” said Cyndi Tuell, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Also, this plan has the potential to protect habitat for Mexican spotted owl, peregrine falcon, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. We will be watching closely to make sure future generations are able to enjoy these species and have the freedom to visit a quiet and undisturbed forest.”

After gathering information and suggestions from the public over the past few months, the district developed a proposal that prioritizes habitat and species protection and considers budgetary constraints. Bryan Bird, wildplaces program director for WildEarth Guardians, also praised the plan. “We are impressed with how this district has gone through the process,” he said. Part of the process, called “travel analysis,” includes analyzing how many roads in the district cause environmental damage and how many roads the forest can afford to maintain. The Mountainair Ranger District found it could afford to maintain just 9 percent of its current roads, and that more than a third of its roads are causing damage and should be considered for permanent closure. “By doing travel analysis, they figured out which roads were causing damage, which roads they actually needed, and what they could afford. The result is a responsible plan,” said Bird.

The goal of travel planning is a route system that protects species, habitat, and quiet recreation opportunities while still allowing for off-road vehicle use. The Forest Service is conducting travel management on all forests in the country, following a 2005 federal rule that ends decades of unregulated cross-country, off-road driving on public lands. The rule stems from a 1972 presidential order that recognized the significant damage caused by off-road vehicle use and the need to protect public lands for future generations of quiet recreational users, wildlife, and watersheds.

The plan, known as a “proposed action,” was posted on the Cibola National Forest Web site on Thursday, March 26. Comments are due May 1, 2009.

The plan will:

  • Prohibit motorized game retrieval;
  • Open 2.2 miles of currently closed roads ;
  • Designate 6.6 miles of user-created roads;
  • Construct 2.7 new miles of roads;
  • Perform major road maintenance;
  • Reduce roads open to the public by 296 miles;
  • Allow driving off road for dispersed camping along 16.5 miles of roads; and
  • Offer a total of 187.5 miles of roads to the public.

The Mountainair Ranger District will host three open houses in mid- to late April to answer questions and solicit feedback from the public.

April 14, 2009 6-8pm

April 15, 2009 6-8pm

April 28, 2009 6-8pm

Belen , NM

Corona , NM

Mountainair , NM

Belen Senior Center

Corona Senior Center

Mountainair Senior Center

715-A South Main St.

451 Main St .

107 N. Summit Ave.


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