For Immediate Release, February 5, 2009
Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Rachel Conn, Amigos Bravos, (575) 758-3874
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, (575) 770-1295
Carson National Forest Off-road Plan Threatens Rivers, Forests, and Wildlife
TAOS, N.M.— Amigos Bravos, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Western Environmental Law Center are criticizing the Carson National Forest’s off-road vehicle plan, released to the public January 31. While the plan takes some positive steps – such as protections for Middle Fork Road, Goose Lake Road, and Bitter Creek – the three groups say the plan is, at present, inadequate as it will not protect northern New Mexico’s rivers, forests, and wildlife.
“Northern New Mexico’s rivers and forests are beloved by all,” said Rachel Conn of Amigos Bravos, a statewide river conservation group that has been working to address impacts to the Upper Red River watershed in the Carson from off-road vehicles expressed concern with the proposed plan. “This proposal enables ongoing abuses of our public lands from off-road vehicle users. And while everyone has the right to use our National Forest, no one has the right to abuse it.”
According to Forest Service documents, 1,400 miles of roads are needed for visitors, safety, and management of the forest, yet the Forest Service plans to keep more than 2,000 miles of roads open.
“In light of budget cuts and maintenance backlogs, this plan is irresponsible,” said Cyndi Tuell of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Carson can afford to maintain only 17 percent of the routes in this plan. Adding new routes is irresponsible, hurts wildlife and watersheds, and conflicts with other forest users that hunt, fish, and hike the forest.”
The plan, known as a “Proposed Action,” was posted on the Carson National Forest Web site on Saturday, January 31st. Unfortunately, the plan includes little information about the Carson’s wildlife, waters, or recreation opportunities beyond a map identifying the location of proposed motorized routes, prompting Amigos Bravos to ask for a 30-day extension of the comment period. With the federal holiday and the short month of February, the current comment period is just 19 business days long.
“Because the plan isn’t really a plan, and doesn’t provide critical information about how motorized routes and use will impact water quality, wildlife habitat, and other recreation opportunities, like hunting, fishing, and hiking, the public deserves more time to ensure that we all understand the consequences of the plan and can work together and protect our rivers and forests,” said Conn.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, with the Western Environmental Law Center, added: “Our hope is that the Carson will step up to the plate and exercise leadership to develop a model travel management plan that protects the rights of all New Mexicans to enjoy clean rivers, healthy forests, and unparalleled recreation opportunities. At this point, the Carson has more work to do.”