The Center for Biological Diversity maintains that the U.S. Forest Service plan would nearly double the road and trail mileage open for motorized use in the Jarbidge, Mountain City and Ruby Mountains ranger districts of northeast Nevada.
“This plan sacrifices our watersheds, streams and habitats for wildlife and endangered species to a vocal minority of noisy, high-powered (off-road vehicle) users,” Rob Mrowka, the group’s Nevada spokesman, said in a statement.
Humboldt-Toiyabe spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski said a “thorough analysis” of all issues raised by the organization’s administrative challenge will occur, and Forest Supervisor Jeanne Higgins would reach a decision on the appeal by July 16.
District Rangers Wendy Fuell and Gar Abbas, who oversee national forest land in the rural county, have offered the organization a chance to attend an informal meeting to clarify the issues as part of the appeal process, Kalkowski added.
“(The National Environmental Policy Act) process can be complicated. We do make mistakes and check things,” she told The Associated Press.
The vast majority of national forest roads in the county will remain open to motorized vehicles and only some will be closed under the plan released in April by the Forest Service.
The plan for the first time recognizes more than 900 miles of roads and trails in the county as part of the national forest system. It keeps open another 1,085 miles of existing authorized roads and closes about 225 miles of road.
The decision means nearly 2,000 miles of national forest roads and motorized trails will be open for public use in the county — more than 90 percent of all such mileage on the three ranger districts there.
Mrowka said the vast majority of trails being authorized for motorized use were created by “renegade riders,” without the consent of the Forest Service and without consideration for their impacts on natural resources.
“This isn’t about kicking motorized users off the forest,” he said. “It’s about reason, common sense and the long view.
“Protecting ecosystem health while still providing for some motorized use should be the goal. Under the current situation, there are still almost 1,100 miles of motorized roads and trails open to the public. It’s too bad the Forest Service chose such a destructive and unbalanced plan.”
The Forest Service’s travel management plans were initiated during the administration of former President George W. Bush amid an explosion of new roads spurred by the growing popularity of off-highway vehicle travel.