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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Help keep motorized vehicles out of Northern Sierra Nevada National Forest sensitive habitat, watersheds and unprotected wilderness; Letters Needed NOW!

Eldorado National Forest
Route Designation
Comments Needed
DEADLINE: October 22
The following comes from Vicky Hoover at the Sierra Club.
The Forest Service, which has recently called unmanaged motorized vehicle recreation a major threat to America's spectacular public lands, is changing over to a national off-road vehicle (ORV)-management system of allowing recreation off-road vehicle use on designated routes only, instead of general cross-country use anywhere except where specially prohibited. To make this major (and long needed!) change, the Forest Service has undertaken the enormous task of designating off-highway travel routes on all National Forests. Each forest is dong separate planning. Here in California, right now, the Eldorado National Forest (which is just south of Lake Tahoe and north of the Stanislaus National Forest) has released its Travel Management Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to confine vehicle use to specifically designated roads and trails. The comment period for this plan ends Oct. 22.
The public has an unprecedented opportunity RIGHT NOW to write to keep motorized vehicles out of sensitive habitat, watersheds and unprotected wilderness. Here are some general talking points to put into your OWN words, to begin your comment letter, before you ask for adoption of Alternative E, with two important changes:
** The law requires the Forest Service to minimize damage from off-road vehicles. It does NOT require the Forest Service to fulfill ALL the demand for motorized routes that now exists or may ever exist.
** When figuring out where motorized routes of travel should be the Forest Service should keep in mind the needs of the MANY, many visitors to the Forest who do NOT come for motorized-vehicle recreation. They shouldn't discriminate against people who wish to hike or families who want to go for a walk from a campground without being disturbed by noise, dust, or pollution of off-road vehicles. (There are two relatively small wilderness areas on the Eldorado Forest, the Desolation in the north, and the Mokelumne in the south. These don't accommodate all the visitors who just wish for some short and quiet walking places, without the challenge of accessing wilderness.)
** The Forest Service must consider how any new motorized route they add to their travel system contributes to the problem of fragmenting habitat for wildlife. (Since wildlife cannot speak up for themselves, the Forest Service must take special care to assure that providing for human recreation minimizes the harm to wildlife, both plants and animals.) Special concern must be given to sensitive species.
In addition, the Forest Service must be careful not to allow more routes in the travel system than the agency has the staff and funding to monitor, manage, restore, AND enforce. One of the problems of off-road vehicle use has been precisely the lack of adequate monitoring, restoration of impacts, and enforcement of regulations. The agency must consider how THIS plan will facilitate those essential management actions.
Specifically: Urge the Forest Supervisor to adopt Alternative E, with the following important changes:
· Alternative E should adopt the seasonal closures and over-the-snow requirements of Alt. C: "Seasonal closure on all designated system trails and native surface roads from Nov. 1 through April 3. Wheeled motor vehicle over-the-snow travel allowed on surfaced roads only with 12 inches of snow or more and no ground contact." These closure dates can be shortened by the Forest Supervisor if dry weather warrants opening the forest to vehicles.
· In the Rubicon River area, Hunters Trail (11E09), Gray's (aka Frey's) Trail (11E04), Deer Creek Trail (14E11) should not be designated for motorized use. Reason: The Rubicon Canyon is an historic hiking/backpacking/fishing area. Hunter's is one of the most popular hiking trails on the Georgetown District. Because it is relatively level, it is one of the easier trails for the very young, the elderly or infirm. Fishermen use the trails to access the excellent trout fishing in the Rubicon. Motorized use conflicts with traditional quiet recreation in numerous ways. Dirt bike noise echoes in the canyon, spoiling the natural quiet. Tell the Forest Service motorized use of these trails will create/continue significant user conflicts.
Important: Point out that Alt. E also reduces damage from the other leading "threats" identified by the Forest Service: Fire, noxious weeds, and habitat fragmentation.
Comments on the Travel Management DEIS will be accepted until October 22, 2007. Comments may be submitted by mail to:
Forest Supervisor Ramiro Villalvazo
Attn: Travel Management DEIS
100 Forni Road
Placerville, CA 95667
By fax: 530-621-5297
Or by leaving a message on the project hotline: 530-295-5666.
Click here for more information on the Eldorado's DEIS.

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