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For Immediate Release, March 22, 2011

Contact:  Cyndi Tuell, (520) 444-6603
Bryan Bird, (505) 988-9126 ext 1157
Rachel Conn, (575) 758-3874

Harmful New Mexico Forest Road Plan Blocked in Response to Conservation Groups' Appeal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— In response to an appeal by the Center for Biological Diversity, Amigos Bravos and WildEarth Guardians, on Monday the Southwestern Regional Office of the U.S. Forest Service reversed a decision to add user-created roads to the Carson National Forest’s official road system. The Carson must now close those roads and exclude them from maps showing which roads are open to the public.

“Closing harmful roads will help sensitive soils, watersheds and wildlife,” said Cyndi Tuell, a Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For years we’ve asked the Forest Service to protect our forests from harmful roads. In this case they didn’t even bother to visit the roads they were proposing to add to the system.”

“User-created” roads are made when people drive off-road to camping spots with their motorhomes, trucks and off-road vehicles. “Over time these trips create tracks that others follow, and before you know it a whole new road is in place,” said Tuell. “Because they’re not designed to any standard, these roads can cause erosion, destroy stream banks and critical wildlife habitat and even cause safety problems.”

Rachel Conn, projects director of Amigos Bravos, said: “We are pleased that as a result of our appeal there will be clear direction about where it is inappropriate to drive in the Forest. Unfortunately, despite recent planning efforts, roads and vehicle use in our national forests continue to be a major impact to water quality in New Mexico's headwater streams.”

The Carson National Forest has been developing a motor-vehicle use map since early 2009. In July 2009, the Center and others criticized the Forest Service for releasing an incomplete analysis of its proposed plan. Thousands of Center members contacted the agency, forcing them to release reports detailing the environmental impacts of their proposed plan.

The New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance also appealed the Forest’s decision. That appeal was rejected by the Regional Office of the Forest Service. This is the second appeal filed by the ORV users’ group rejected by the Regional Office for the Carson National Forest. The appeal decision leaves more than 1,300 miles of road open to public use for recreational access.

“Our national forests are too precious to allow ORV users to decide where they will ride without any thought about impacts to water and wildlife,” said Bryan Bird, a biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “This decision confirms that principle and protects the Carson National Forest.”

More information on the Center’s fight to protect natural resources from off-road vehicle abuses can be found here:

More information on the Carson National Forest Travel Management Planning is available at the Forest’s website:

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