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For Immediate Release, July 29, 2009

Contact:  Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Joanie Berde, Carson Forest Watch, (575) 587-2848
Brian Shields, Amigos Bravos, (575) 758-3874
Garrett VeneKlasen, Taos resident,

New Off-road Vehicle Plan Still Threatens Carson National Forest

TAOS, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Amigos Bravos, and Carson Forest Watch are asking the public to take a critical look at the Carson National Forest’s modified off-road vehicle plan, which was released to the public July 14. The plan includes a preliminary environmental analysis of road and off-road vehicle impacts. The public has until August 15 to provide comments on the plan to the Forest Service.

Though improved from previous versions, the plan would still threaten wildlife, watersheds, and quiet recreation by making up to 33 miles of routes created by repeated unauthorized off-road travel a permanent part of the road system. Neither located nor engineered to Forest Service standards, these routes are subject to very little environmental analysis. A lack of maintenance funds for roads promises poor road quality, erosion, and habitat destruction.

“We are very concerned about the lack of information the public can review and comment on in these latest documents,” said Cyndi Tuell, southwestern conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is no information on the proposed road density, which is critical to watershed health, and we don’t have any information about the impacts of unauthorized roads.”

All national forests are required to limit motorized cross-country travel by the travel management planning rule of 2005 to protect natural resources after more than 30 years of unregulated off-road vehicle use. Despite a Forest Service report indicating that just 1,400 miles of roads are needed in the Carson for visitors, safety, and natural-resource protection, the agency plans to keep more than 1,500 miles of roads open in four ranger districts alone – enough road to connect Santa Fe, New Mexico to Vancouver, British Colombia.

“Roads and ATVs in the Tres Piedras are severing key habitat linkages that connect Colorado and New Mexico populations of imperiled species, like the lynx,” said Joanie Berde of Carson Forest Watch. “The public needs to tell the Forest Service to focus on helping wildlife rather than designating more unnecessary and unwanted roads.”

New Mexico sportsman and ATV rider Garrett VeneKlasen also voiced concern about the impacts of off-road vehicles on wildlife habitat. “Increasing off-road vehicle use has wreaked havoc on New Mexico’s wildlife over the last 15 years,” said VeneKlasen. “We have a moral obligation to protect and restore large tracts of land to support elk, turkey, deer, bear, and other wildlife for future generations. We need to act now.

The modified proposal includes an incomplete environmental impact analysis. Many impacts of the plan are “yet to be analyzed” or “to be determined.” Conservationists think the public should have a chance to see those impacts and comment on them, rather than on impacts that are “yet to be determined.”

The original proposal did not include much information the public could use to comment on. “Again, we are seeing that this isn’t a well-developed plan, and the analysis doesn’t provide critical information about how motorized use will impact water quality and wildlife habitat,” said Brian Shields, executive director of Amigos Bravos. “We are asking the Forest Service to give the public another chance to comment when the analysis is complete and more information is available.” 

On Thursday, July 30, at 8:00 p.m., Radio Río, a monthly a nonprofit radio program airing on 101.9 FM, will air a half-hour conversation between Joanie Berde, Garrett VeneKlasen, and Radio Río host Brian Shields discussing the latest version of the Carson National Forest off-road management plan. Radio Río is a co-production of Amigos Bravos and Cultural Energy, and can be heard on the Cultural Energy Web site.

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