For Immediate Release, March 25, 2009
Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Appeal Filed Over Forest Service Decision to Add Hundreds of Miles of
Off-road Trails to Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
LAS VEGAS, Nev.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed an appeal Tuesday of the Forest Service’s decision regarding the Ely Ranger District Travel Management Project on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The Service’s decision added over 233 miles of unauthorized user-created routes to the system without subjecting them to the usual design requirements or site-specific analysis of their environmental impacts. The vast majority of the resulting 1,239 miles of motorized routes will never receive the maintenance needed to ensure that they will not seriously hurt streams, springs, and other sensitive wetlands.
“This decision shortcuts the environmental compliance process and shortchanges the public’s ability to participate and inform the outcome,” said Rob Mrowka, an ecologist and conservation advocate at the Center. “These routes intrude into critical habitats for bighorn sheep, sage grouse, peregrine falcon, and Bonneville cutthroat trout. They travel through areas of high risk for the spread of noxious and invasive plant species, serving as a conduit for their spread. They hurt inventoried roadless areas and the headwaters, habitats, and opportunities for solitude those provide.”
The Forest Service’s travel-management regulations are designed to compel the agency to identify the minimum transportation system needed for the management, protection, and use of an area, resulting in a plan that designates roads and trails as open or closed to motorized use. In this case, however, the district failed to meet this intent. For example, the agency did an environmental assessment rather than a more comprehensive and public-input-friendly environmental impact statement. “Under the National Environmental Policy Act, executive orders, and internal agency directives, an environmental impact statement should have been prepared for this project given its controversial nature and the resource values at risk,” said Mrowka.
In the appeal filed today, the Center requested several remedies from the Forest Service. These include: 1) re-opening the planning process under the requirements of an environmental impact statement; 2) the evaluation of the environmental impact of all routes, official and user-created; 3) the consideration of a fuller range of alternatives, including one that identifies the minimum required system and one that is within the agency’s ability to manage under present and expected budgetary and staffing realities.