PICKERINGTON, Ohio - The U.S. Forest Service has adopted a new rule that will allow the agency to fast-track the destruction of motorized trails, according to the American Motorcyclist Association.
"Since the Forest Service can move quickly to destroy trails, we must be prepared to move quickly to voice our concerns as motorized recreation enthusiasts when we can."
-- Wayne Allard, AMA
"Now, more than ever, it's important for all riders to contact their local national forest and get on the contact list to be notified when the local forest plans to take any action on trails," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. "Since the Forest Service can move quickly to destroy trails, we must be prepared to move quickly to voice our concerns as motorized recreation enthusiasts when we can."
The USFS published a final rule Sept. 12 in the Federal Register that adds three new "categorical exclusions" to its national Environmental Policy Act regulations "for activities that restore lands negatively impacted by water control structures, natural- and human-caused events, and roads and trails."
Categorical exclusions allow the agency to act without preparing a what the agency said is a costly and time-consuming environmental assessment or environmental impact statement to determine the project's impacts. The Forest Service said the document preparation and review process for "categorical exclusions" typically take one-third less time to complete than a typical environmental assessment.
"By using these categorical exclusions, the Forest Service will be able to move more efficiently through the environmental review process without short-cutting public involvement or sacrificing environmental protection," the agency noted.
Among other things, the new rule allows the Forest Service to obliterate "unneeded and unauthorized roads and trails" without doing an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The rule cannot be used for recognized National Forest System Roads and National Forest System Trails.
When using the categorical exclusion related to roads and trails, the rule says Forest Service officials "will conduct appropriate scoping and public involvement assuring that citizen views are taken into account in an appropriate manner given the context of the decisions being made." The rule also states that "this category will not be used to make access decisions about which roads and trails are to be designated for public use." (continued)