In November 2005, the Forest Service published a new travel-management rule governing motor-vehicle use on all national forests and grasslands. Under the final rule, each national forest or ranger district will designate those roads, trails and areas open to motor-vehicle use by class of vehicle and, if appropriate, by time of year. When designation is completed on a national forest or ranger district, motor-vehicle use off the designated system will be prohibited.
Travel-management planning is important because up to this point, motorized recreationists have created tens of thousands of miles of unauthorized routes on the nation’s national forests. Through this process, the Forest Service will determine which routes will remain open and which will be closed to motorized uses. Often, user-created routes intrude on primitive roadless areas that are valuable for watershed protection, clean water supplies, habitat for rare species and escape areas for game animals — not to mention serving as havens for quiet recreationists.
To date, the Center has been successful in advocating for the closure of 2,686 miles of user-created routes on Nevada’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest alone. We have appealed a decision on the Bridgeport Ranger District that fails to close routes harmful to species like Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, sage grouse and rare plants. The Mountain City, Jarbridge and Ruby Mountain ranger districts haven’t yet completed the travel management-planning process, but their draft environmental impact statements make the challenge for us clear — the districts are proposing the addition of more than 950 miles of unauthorized routes. We’re working with other environmental groups to oppose most of these additions for the protection of species, watersheds and quiet-recreation opportunities.