CENTER FOR SIERRA NEVADA CONSERVATION
NEWS RELEASE: For Immediate Release: Monday, February 11, 2002
PUBLIC LAND MANAGERS SUED: Feds Ignoring Off-Road Vehicle Laws; results in damage to soils and wildlife.
SACRAMENTO A trio of conservation organizations filed a lawsuit Friday charging that Eldorado National Forest officials have failed to obey laws for managing off-road vehicles on the 786,000 acre Sierra Nevada forest between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. As a result, ORV use off designated roads and trails is uncontrolled and causing widespread damage to soils, wildlife, and vegetation.
Eldorado County-based Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation (CSNC) and co-plaintiffs Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and California Wilderness Coalition (CWC) charge in a lawsuit filed on Friday that the Eldorados Off-Road Vehicle Plan failed to analyze the effects of ORV use on the forest. It also charges the Forest with violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The suit also challenges the Rock Creek ORV area decision, adopted in 1999, saying it failed to adequately address impacts to soils and wildlife, including the declining Pacific deer herd and California spotted owls.
According to Karen Schambach, President of the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, lack of the analysis renders the Forest Service unable to restrict ORV use on the Forest. In lieu of enforceable Forest Orders, the Eldorado relies on signs that are routinely vandalized. Their law enforcement officers cant cite riders going off designated routes; the riders know this, and the irresponsible ones are taking full advantage of the situation. You can go almost anywhere on that forest and see significant damage.
The Eldorados Land Management Plan, adopted in 1989, restricts ORV use to a designated route system, but failed to analyze the impacts of the route designations to soils, fish and wildlife and other recreationists. Appeals of that decision to the Forest Service Washington DC office resulted in an order to the Eldorado to complete analysis of their trail plan by May 1997. The Eldorado has not initiated those studies, nor even indicated that it intends to do so.
Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity said, The Eldorado Supervisor John Berry cant continue to dodge his responsibilities for limiting off-road vehicle harm. To protect the public-interest, we will vigorously pursue full compliance of NEPA and all other applicable conservation laws.