Forest Service clarifies access issue

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service has clarified the process used to designate areas that motorized vehicles have access to, the BlueRibbon Coalition said in a press release Monday.

The Forest Service outlined the process in a March 23 memo after there was some confusion over an initial draft.

BRC, a national trail-based advocacy group, raised concerns last year about the potential for abuse of interim Forest Service orders on motorized vehicles. The group was concerned about road and trail designation decisions possibly occurring outside the lawful public planning process.

The Forest Service said the purpose of the interim orders is to prohibit wheeled vehicles from leaving existing roads and trails to stop cross-country resource damage. The memo further explains that Forest Service orders “should not be used to close existing roads and trails.”

“Unfortunately, anti-access interests had apparently hoped to feature the use of ‘interim’ orders to restrict vehicle travel on a large-scale basis and as a substitute for proper public involvement and analysis,” wrote Paul Turcke, lead counsel for BRC, in a letter responding to the memo. “[The memo] properly refocuses on the importance of public planning to address management challenges, and should clearly establish that ‘interim’ orders are not designed to close existing routes, which have historically received vehicle access.

“BlueRibbon and its partners support managed and responsible outdoor recreation, and believe that effective management can often best be attained through communication, cooperation and collaboration between diverse private and public entities,” Turcke wrote.

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