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For Immediate Release, June 29, 2012

Contact:   Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 623-5262 x 308
Bryan Bird, WildEarth Guardians, (505) 988-9126 x 1157

Santa Fe National Forest ORV Decision Threatens Wildlife and Watersheds

SANTA FE, N.M.— A decision issued this week by the Santa Fe National Forest, addressing its management of travel through the forest, leaves a spider web of more than 2,400 miles of roads open, exposing wildlife to the continued damage of excessive motorized use of public lands, including by off-road vehicles. The Forest Service can afford to maintain just 10 percent of the roads approved in the plan, which was released after five years of work and 3,500 public comments.

Illegal Jemez motorcycle track
More than two feet of erosion caused by illegal motorcycle track in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Kevin Stillman.

“By adopting an oversized road system, today the Forest Service chose to place the demands of a loud and well-funded special interest over the future of wildlife and the needs of the general public,” said Cyndi Tuell, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “When roads aren’t maintained, they erode into our streams and can kill native fish. That road erosion also keeps people who don’t have specialized four-wheel drive vehicles out of the forest.”

“Motorized uses threaten our precious waters that flow from the Santa Fe National Forest,” said Bryan Bird, an ecologist with WildEarth Guardians. “The final travel plan puts a small user group above the interests of all other forest users, wildlife and water quality.”

The decision was made in response to a 1972 executive order from President Richard Nixon followed by a 2005, Bush-era regulation called the “Travel Management Rule.”

“This long-overdue decision doesn’t do justice to species on the brink of extinction — like the Jemez Mountain salamander — but instead creates a ‘play area’ in Lake Fork Canyon that rewards the very people who created the illegal roads that are hurting this species — and plenty of others,” said Tuell. 

The Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and allies petitioned the Forest Service to close this area to motorized uses in 2009 in order to protect the salamander.

Once the decision is published in the local newspaper of record (the Albuquerque Journal), members of the public who commented on the Forest’s “draft environmental impact statement” in 2010 will have 45 days to appeal the decision, which is available with maps and analysis at the Santa Fe National Forest’s website.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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