By Frank Mosbacher
U.S. Forest Service
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Forty-two off-highway-vehicle routes that cross meadows in the Eldorado National Forest may be closed to motor vehicle travel this recreation season while the Forest Service completes an environmental analysis, announced Eldorado National Forest Supervisor Kathy Hardy.
The potential travel prohibitions are the result of a February court order by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton. The order said the Forest Service failed to comply with the National Forest Management Act in 2008 when it designated “open for public motor vehicle use” portions of 42 routes that cross meadows. Judge Karlton ordered the Forest Service to “set aside” the decision that designated these segments as open and to reconsider the decision.
A final court order with further direction to the Forest Service is pending. In the interim, Karlton ordered the 42 routes remain closed to motorized public use. The final order will identify specifically where travel will be prohibited until a new environmental decision is made.
“I know that prohibiting travel on these routes will be a big disappointment to forest visitors, but we have to be responsive to the order.” said Hardy. “I have a team of people lined up to complete a supplemental environmental impact statement as quickly as possible.”
The SEIS is scheduled to begin in April or May and to be completed by April 2013.
Hardy said many popular high county routes may be affected by the closure.
Some of these routes include: Barrett Lake Jeep Trail; Squaw Ridge Four -Wheel Drive Trail; Clover Valley/ Deer Valley Trail; Strawberry Four-Wheel Drive Trail; Carson Emigrant Trail; Allen’s Camp Motorcycle Trail and the Bucks Pasture Motorcycle Trail. The Rubicon 4wd Trail is not affected by this court order.
Maps and a complete list of the routes affected by the court order will be posted on the Eldorado National Forest Website at: fs.usda.gov/eldorado. These maps will be modified to reflect the final court order once it is received.
A free-of-charge motor vehicle use map that shows the routes that are open to wheeled motor vehicle use will be available at all Eldorado National Forest offices in June reflecting the final order.
“I intend to close the routes where it makes sense to do so if the final order prohibits travel on routes that cross meadows,” said Hardy. “A route may be closed near a meadow or some distance away, depending on how difficult it is to turn a vehicle around.”
Some routes will also be closed indirectly because they branch off closed routes and will not be accessible.