Eldorado Forest Releases Long-Awaited Travel Plan

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PLACERVILLE, Calif. — The Eldorado National Forest has released its Travel Management Plan, which is one of the first final decision documents promulgated in California under the Forest Service's Travel Management Rule.

The new decision, signed by Forest Supervisor Ramiro Villalvazo on March 31, follows a tumultuous history of planning, controversy and litigation. Upon signing the Record of Decision, the Forest met with numerous stakeholder interests, including recreation groups and representatives from the state OHV program, to review its designation of approximately 1,847 miles of roads and trails for motorized vehicle use.

The designation represents a significant reduction to the historic public route network of 2,342 miles of National Forest System Roads and Trails and over 500 miles of user-created routes. However, the mileage in this alternative (modified B) represents an increase of about 300 miles as compared to the preferred Alternative D in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The added routes apparently came as a result of the agency listening to thousands of site-specific comments submitted by OHV enthusiasts and other users who spoke about important modifications to provide trail connectivity, sites for dispersed camping, and to provide for an enjoyable and sustainable route network.

Supervisor Villalvazo stressed at the meeting that this base route network is a beginning and a foundation for future travel planning on the Forest. He also made a commitment to a volunteer trail program and to work with the recreation community to provide a quality recreational experience on the Forest. Villalvazo specifically noted that his office would continue to work with El Dorado County in developing a master plan for the world-famous Rubicon 4WD Trail.

Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, observed, "There is certainly frustration by the OHV community regarding the significant reduction from routes historically used and maintained by the Forest. However, we recognize the thankless position of current personnel who inherited a regulatory 'perfect storm' fraught with misinterpretation of rules, regulations and the court order."

"This product is far from perfect, but many users will appreciate the agency's effort to provide for meaningful trail mileage, to reduce the wet weather closure period, and to commit to working with the OHV community and other publics on the implementation and improvement of the plan," Amador concluded.

Due to the various appeal and administrative time-lines associated with this project, implementation of the decision will likely not occur until January 2009.

The recreation groups at the meeting included Friends of the Rubicon, California Enduro Riders Association, American Motorcyclist Association District 36, El Dorado Equestrian Trails Foundation, California Off Road Vehicle Association, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, and the BlueRibbon Coalition, all of whom have been active in the administrative process and prior litigation addressing Eldorado travel management.