For Immediate Release, January 14, 2010
||Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Matt Norton, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), (651) 223-5969
Brad Sagen, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, (218) 365-6461
Sharon Stephens, Sierra Club, (952) (465-2118)
Destructive Superior National Forest ORV Plan Challenged
DULUTH, Minn.— Conservation groups filed a formal appeal today of a federal plan that fails to protect wild lands in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest from damage from off-road vehicles. The groups are asking Regional Forester Kent Connaughton to reverse the Superior National Forest decision due to concerns about how the proposed off-road vehicle plan will affect threatened lynx, wolf, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
“The Forest Service continues to fail in its duty to minimize harm to the environment from ORVs. It continues to ignore the impacts of hundreds of miles of illegal roads and has no concrete plan to remedy the problem,” said Cyndi Tuell, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Increasing the number of miles of roads in lynx habitat violates the Forest Plan and will put the species at increased risk.”
Under this plan, all but two of the 30 areas of lynx habitat will continue to have open-road densities that are in violation of the law. Sharon Stephens, of the Sierra Club, noted that the current plan for those two areas doesn’t give any indication of when those few roads not designated as open would be physically removed, or how such closures would be paid for. “It’s unfortunate the Superior National Forest didn’t have a plan in place to take advantage of stimulus funds to create jobs that would actually get these unnecessary and harmful roads off the landscape,” said Stephens.
In April 2009, the groups appealed the Forest Service’s first decision to allow motorized travel on more than 1,600 miles of roads and trails in the Superior National Forest because of harm to air and water quality, noise pollution, the spread of invasive species, potential impacts on Boundary Waters, and a failure to protect endangered and threatened species such as Canada lynx and gray wolf. While that appeal was granted in March, when the Forest Service was directed to analyze the impacts to air quality in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, “The Forest Service has made no substantive changes to its original decision, thus leaving the Boundary Waters vulnerable to continued impacts from off-road vehicles,” said Brad Sagen, chair of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness.
More than 1,600 miles of roads and trails would remain open to off-road vehicles under this plan, affecting more than 2.7 million acres of forest.
This decision is the Superior National Forest’s attempt to implement a 2005 regulation that requires forests to determine which roads they need, how many they can afford, and which roads should be closed because they are too costly or causing too much damage. Most forests cannot afford to properly maintain their current road systems, and implementation of this requirement is seen by many as an ideal opportunity to bring the overgrown and unmanageable road networks under control.
The groups that filed the appeal are the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the BWCAW, Izaak Walton League, League of Women Voters Minnesota, MCEA, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, and Sierra Club.