Supervisors object to Forest Service off-highway vehicle plan

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors authorized Chairwoman Sherrie Thrall to sign a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture arguing for maintaining previous levels of off-highway vehicle use in local national forests at a meeting Tuesday, March 9.

County Public Works Director Bob Perreault brought the letter before the board, explaining Butte, Lassen, Shasta and Plumas counties were trying to all pass the same letter as a show of solidarity.
He explained the Lassen and Shasta-Trinity national forests recently received "notices of decision" regarding their motorized travel management plans, which indicated less OHV use would be allowed compared to the previous arrangement.

Perreault said the Plumas Forest hadn't received its notice of decision yet, but parts of the Lassen National Forest extend into Plumas County.

The director explained the objections were mostly related to the fact that most existing "mixed use" roadways used by passenger cars won't be open to off-highway vehicles.

Perreault's background material for the agenda item read, "Such rules will severely constrain backcountry recreation mobility."

The letter Thrall will sign argued "hundreds of miles of unpaved forest roads and other routed will be closed to motor vehicles" in the three forests.

It continued, "Non-highway legal vehicles face the most severe prohibitions. We are concerned about these impacts."

"A balance needs to be struck between public access and environmental stewardship. These goals needn't be mutually exclusive."

The letter supported the Modoc National Forest's plan as a more successful balance of the goals and "developed through extensive public involvement and coordination with local agencies.

"Our local forests need to embrace that model."

The letter also said the Forest Service had previously argued mixed use roads had to be closed off for OHV users because of state traffic laws concerning highways.

The letter said, "The California Highway Patrol has since discredited the underlying premise that unpaved roads are 'Highways' under the California Vehicle Code."

The letter went on to argue the Region Six policy for mixed-use roads was exactly the opposite of the one for Region Five, which contains Plumas.

The letter concluded, "Specifically we seek continued OHV ridership on Maintenance Level 3 and 4 roads."

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