Potential Closure of Forest Service Roads
While the current round of Forest Service road closures is completed in Big Bear, the battle is far from over!
A few day ago we learned about the Forest Service 2020 Plan where 70% of all Forest Service roads must comply with the Level 3 designation allowing a low ground clearance 2WD vehicle to drive on the road. At first we thought that there was some good news because the Forest Service plan did not include any means of funding. That actually may be bad news!
We were kicking around ways the Forest Service might implement the 2020 plan. One way is to pave over the dirt roads, which would simplify maintenance and reduce cost in the long haul. That led to a rather frightening idea. In the Big Bear, we are blessed with over 600 miles of forest service roads, About 75 miles of those roads fit the Level 3 requirement or could very easily. Another 50 miles would be fairly easy to bring up to that standard. So here in Big Bear, the Forest Service has a start with about 20% of the roads easily brought to the level 3 standard. That means they would only need to bring about 300 miles of trails and roads up to Level 3 standards. It would take a huge budget and more than 10 years to accomplish that. That is why it appeared to be good news. Here's the bad news!
What if they simply closed 420 miles of Forest Service roads. Then the 125 miles that are easily brought up to Level 3 stands would be just over 70% of the total road mileage. That would leave us with just 55 miles of high ground clearance 4x4 roads in the Big Bear area. Inevitably, some great wheeling roads would disappear. Since the Forest Service has been closing trails for the last year in this area, this just makes too much sense. We better take this threat seriously.
More bad news! We just learned the Angelus National Forest has stopped all recreational mining by reinstating a 1928 law. Now, even gold panning is not allowed. Is this a conservation move or are the Feds planning to pan for gold to reduce the deficit?
But there us some good news! Congressman Wally Herger is planning to introduce a Travel Management Rule Bill. This bill will restrict funds for Forest Service implementation of Subpart B of its Travel Management Rule (TMR) until the agency has performed the project-level review under the Rule. The bill also addresses the very contentious issue of the Forest Service banning OHV use on dirt-covered and roughly graded logging roads in rural sections of the state.
Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, states, "I feel this legislation has been proposed in direct response to complaints from his constituents who have been locked out of federal timber lands by the misapplication of the Travel Management Rule by government agents."
"This is the type of legislation that outdoor voters asked for in the last election. Congress has a duty to defend the public's right to access federal lands in a responsible manner," Amador concludes.
This bill affects only California, but if it gains traction it may be used a model for other states to stop the closure of roads and trails by the Forest Service. And this bill could put an end to the 2020 plan.
Here is the text of the bill:
CONSIDERATION OF ROUTES NOT PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED.
No funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Secretary of Agriculture may be used to implement or enforce Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule (subpart B of part 212 of title 36, Code of Federal Regulations), relating to the designation of roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use, in an administrative unit of the National Forest System in California unless the Secretary has completed post-Subpart B Project Level Trail Planning of unauthorized routes in the unit not considered in Subpart B.
(b) TREATMENT OF MAINTENANCE-LEVEL 3 ROADS.
In implementing Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule in an administrative unit of the National Forest System in California, the Secretary of Agriculture may not treat a maintenance-level 3 road (as defined in 21 the Forest Service Handbook) as a ''highway'' for purposes of determining applicability of division 16.5 of the California Vehicle Code (section 38000 et seq.), relating to off-highway motor vehicles.
Please ask your Congressman to support this bill.