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For Immediate Release, June 6, 2012

Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821

Forest Service ORV Plan Challenged in Nevada

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity filed an administrative challenge today to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s travel-management plan for the Jarbidge, Mountain City and Ruby Mountains ranger districts in northern Nevada. If implemented, the agency’s plan would almost double the roads and trails miles open for motorized use — enough to connect Las Vegas to Columbus, Ohio, but packed into an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island.

“Instead of protecting the American public’s water, wildlife and land, the Forest Service caved to pressure from sagebrush rebel extremists when it issued this plan,” said Rob Mrowka, the Center’s Nevada-based ecologist. “This plan sacrifices our watersheds, streams and habitat for wildlife and endangered species to a vocal minority of noisy, high-powered ORV users.”

The vast majority of the trails being authorized for motorized use were created by renegade riders, without the consent of the Forest Service and without proper consideration of their locations or impacts on natural resources. In addition to the added trails, the plan exempts game retrieval during elk hunting season from a cross-country motorized travel ban, opening an additional 674,000 acres of land to the impacts of driving outside established roads and trails.

“The Forest Service’s plan would more than double the acres of impaired or at-risk watersheds,” said Mrowka. “Water quality would be diminished and aquatic species hurt — including federally protected Lahontan cutthroat and bull trout, rare and imperiled redband trout and Columbia spotted frogs.”

The plan will also facilitate the spread of invasive and noxious weeds. Two thousand miles of motorized travel would be authorized through known weed infestations and areas having moderate-to-high risks from weeds. Cross-country travel during elk season occurs when the weeds are spreading their seeds, which are easily picked up and transported by the knobby tires and undercarriages of off-road vehicles.

“The spread of noxious and invasive plants has major consequences for native habitats. Wildfire risks increase, and plant-dependent native wildlife is hurt — including sage grouse and mule deer,” said Mrowka.

The challenge also takes the Forest Service to task for not using the best available science on the protection of sage grouse strutting and breeding areas, and the likely impacts on a bird that is currently under evaluation for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“This isn’t about kicking motorized users off the forest,” said Mrowka. “It’s about reason, common sense and the long view. Protecting ecosystem health while still providing for some motorized use should be the goal. Under the current situation, there are still almost 1,100 miles of motorized roads and trails open to the public. It’s too bad the Forest Service chose such a destructive and unbalanced plan.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 350,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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