Recreation Group Wins Forest Service Appeal

A Jan. 10 decision from an Appeal Deciding Officer for the USDA Forest Service reversed an earlier decision that would have closed over 14 miles of historic off-highway vehicle (OHV) motorized trails in a Northern California Forest.

This decision was in response to appeals filed by the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) and Del Norte County to the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) Road Management and Route Designation Project on the Six Rivers National Forest.

In early November, the County and BRC filed appeals based on concerns that the Six Rivers National Forest's Decision Notice and FONSI approving Alternative 2, as modified, would close many important motorized trails to local users. BRC believed the Ranger District had misinterpreted the 2001 Clinton Roadless Rule as prohibiting the designation of motorized trails in roadless areas.

The 19 National Forests in California are in various stages of route designation as required by the nationwide Forest Service Travel Management Rule. The NRA's process was one of the first projects completed where a final decision notice had been issued. Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, states, "I think our main goal in filing this appeal was to champion the concept that important OHV travelways in roadless areas should not be arbitrarily and summarily excluded from the route designation process. Some of the most highly valued and scenic motorized trails in our National Forests exist in roadless areas."

"This decision clearly supports BRC's continuing legal viewpoint that the 2001 Clinton Roadless Rule allows for motorized trails to be designated in roadless areas. As the route designation process continues on other Forests it will be important for local user groups to highlight important OHV routes that already exist in roadless areas so they may be included as meaningful options in the travel management plan," Amador concludes.

The appeal decision is available here.