Supervisors look at appealing Forest Service OHV plan

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer
12/15/2010

 

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors (BOS) created a committee to appeal the Plumas National Forest’s Travel Management Plan at a Tuesday, Dec. 7, meeting.

Eastern Plumas Supervisor Terry Swofford and Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher will sit on the committee.

Swofford argued the new rules would negatively affect “tourism, recreation and even woodcutting.”

“A lot of people in this county rely on woodcutting to heat their homes, and with this new plan, it’s going to restrict a lot of areas.”

The supervisors have until Monday, Dec. 27, to file an appeal.

Swofford told the board he discussed the possible appeal with the Sierra County Board of Supervisors chairman, who seemed very interested, and a Lassen County supervisor who was considering the idea.

The Plumas National Forest extends into several counties, each of which could make its own appeal of the ruling.

“The Forest Service has not really coordinated very well with us, and by law my understanding is they must coordinate with state government, local government and Indian tribes,” Swofford added.

“They have asked us to attend meetings where they’ve told us what they’re going to do, but we haven’t really coordinated much.”

 

Butte County concurs

Butte County Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi attended the Plumas BOS meeting to express solidarity on the issue.

He indicated his board was already writing an appeal and already unsuccessfully attempted to challenge the Lassen National Forest plan.

Yamaguchi agreed the “degree of participation” the Forest Service allowed other agencies in the process was less than satisfactory.

He originally hoped citizens’ and local governments’ input would be implemented because of the plan’s “effects on the local economy.”

“Maybe not all of it, but at least implement a portion of it,” the impassioned supervisor said.

“To date, we have not had that cooperation. We have not had that transparency, and we too have found that we have been told what would happen versus our input.”

Yamaguchi was particularly concerned about the new parking rules.

The rules dictate a car must be parked within one vehicle-length of the roadway.

“If you can imagine the safety issues when you’re having a horse who is skittish about traffic going by and your other pedestrians and passengers that are loading and unloading, that would be a huge impact.”

The Butte County supervisor said his county made roads used by normal cars leading to public lands multi-use so off-highway vehicle (OHV) users would have easier access.

The Forest Service has refused to do the same with its roads of the same type, arguing there was a safety issue with having OHVs on roads used frequently by passenger vehicles.

In terms of single-track motorcycle trials, Yamaguchi argued, “Why take away the trails that these clubs have maintained and mitigated some of the environmental issues?”

The Forest Service has contended that many of the trails were not created in a professional manner, weren’t built with containment of erosion in mind or were located in environmentally sensitive areas.

 

Forest Service response

PNF Supervisor Alice Carlton accepted chairwoman Sherrie Thrall’s offer to respond and dove in.

“I really encourage the board to do what you feel is right for the citizens of Plumas County,” she began.

“From the Forest Service side, I believe we have done our best to meet the tenets of a rule that was made in order to balance access and environmental damage from cross-country travel.

“I perfectly understand that the alternative that I have signed does not meet all the desires of all the citizens.

“Now, do we have it all right? I’m sure that there’s roads that we’ve missed and trails.”

The forest supervisor said the agency was already beginning to work with counties and user groups “to look at what we’ve missed, what we can do in the future to ensure that we do have joint access that everybody is agreeable to and also conserves the environmental resource.”

Meacher asked Carlton what would happen in the short term if the travel plan were litigated.

The forest supervisor said it depended on what the judge decided. If a lawsuit were filed, a judge could call for an injunction, which could put things back where they were before the plan or even back to previous configurations, like those that allowed cross-country travel.

Conversely, she said the Modoc National Forest appeal resulted in cross-country travel being prohibited and all of the proposed new trails denied, meaning only the normal road system was open.


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