IDAHO-Court-mandated review of Travel Plan on Salmon-Challis NF underway

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March 26, 2012 8:43 PM

IMPORTANT LAND USE UPDATE Court-mandated review of Travel Plan on Salmon-Challis National Forest officially underway Idaho's anti-access groups hope for additional closures. You may remember news stories about a year ago about the Idaho Conservation League and The Wilderness Society winning a lawsuit on the Salmon-Challis National Forest Travel Plan. (The Idaho Recreation Council (IRC), BRC and other OHV groups participated in that case via the Amici process.) Sadly, the greenies won a temporary closure of several trails, as well as a court mandated environmental review of the original travel plan. That process is now underway, and we will be

IDAHO - IMPORTANT LAND USE UPDATE
Court-mandated review of Travel Plan on Salmon-Challis National Forest officially underway
Idaho's anti-access groups hope for additional closures

Dear BRC Action Alert Subscriber,

You may remember news stories about a year ago about the Idaho Conservation League and The Wilderness Society winning a lawsuit on the Salmon-Challis National Forest Travel Plan. (The Idaho Recreation Council (IRC), BRC and other OHV groups participated in that case via the Amici process.)

Sadly, the greenies won a temporary closure of several trails, as well as a court mandated environmental review of the original travel plan. That process is now underway, and we will be needing your assistance as the process moves along.

Below is some information from the agency. It's a bit long, but that's necessary to describe how the court is directing the Salmon-Challis NF to proceed. The Idaho Recreation Council, BRC and other OHV groups will be digging into the details, and we'll have comment suggestions for you soon.

It is important to note that the same thing has happened with Sawtooth NF. BRC was vigorously involved in that case, and there were no temporary closures, but similar re-do of the environmental analysis will be required.

We are all very disappointed about how this pattern is working. First the US Forest Service closes 30 to 40 percent of the trail mileage, then these foundation funded anti-recreation groups use the courts to close even more. At some point, this sad situation has got to end.

As we noted above, IRC and BRC will have a full review of the process as well as some comment suggestions soon. Until then, please call or email if you have any questions or want to know how you can help.

We encourage you to contact our congressional delegation and ask for a congressional oversight hearing about the loss of public access to public lands in Idaho. Find the number here.

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition

The Salmon-Challis National Forest has initiated a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to clarify and revise sections of the environmental analysis conducted for the original Final EIS, and to correct deficiencies identified by the District Court of Idaho in their February 4, 2011, memorandum decision and order. The Idaho Conservation League and The Wilderness Society are Plaintiffs in the Court's review of the Salmon-Challis National Forest Travel Plan decision. A Notice of intent to prepare this SEIS was published in the Federal Register on March 5, 2012.

To correct the deficiencies, there is a need to (1) analyze the cumulative impacts of multiple short motor vehicle routes on wilderness values and roadless characteristics in Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs) and Idaho Roadless Areas (IRAs) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The cumulative effects of multiple routes less than one-half mile in length in RWAs and IRAs were not analyzed in the 2009 FEIS because it was thought the "intrusions into roadless areas were minimally intrusive and not likely to affect wilderness values." The Court rejected this rationale; (2) demonstrate how the Forest Service applied the minimization criteria to route designations to comply with section 212.55 of the Travel Management Rule (36.CFR 212.55); (3) respond to Plaintiff's site-specific comments raised during the legal comment period for the Draft EIS to comply with the NEPA, and (4) include specific language in the Revised Record of Decision (ROD) to clarify a minimum road system determination was not made in the 2009 Travel Plan decision.

The scope of the analysis for the SElS is not the same as the original analysis. The scope of the supplemental analysis has now been narrowed to focus on the four deficiencies identified by the Court:

1.) Analyze the cumulative effects of multiple routes less than one-half mile in length in RWAs and IRAs to wilderness values and roadless characteristics. 103 routes less than one mile in length, totaling 14.91 miles within 24 IRAs and RWAS were identified in the 2009 FEIS; however the cumulative impacts of these routes were not considered

Errors regarding the number and length of all routes in RWAs and IRAs have been identified since 2009. An analysis of effects of all routes in RWAs and IRAs would be conducted and disclosed in the SEIS. Thirty-seven routes, totaling 6.68 miles within RWAs and IRAs, were inadvertently overlooked and associated effects were not analyzed or disclosed in the 2009 FEIS. Of these 37 routes, 29 are less than one-half mile in length, totaling 3.21 miles. These will be included in the supplemental analysis of cumulative effects of routes less than one-half mile in length. Thirteen routes totaling 2.80 miles were designated for use in the 2009 ROD; however these routes did not meet safety specifications, or were causing resource damage and were not delineated on the Motor Vehicle Use Map.

2.) Demonstrate how the Forest Service applied the minimum criteria to route designations to comply with section 212.55 of the Travel Management Rule (36 CFR 212.55).

3.) Respond to Plaintiffs site-specific comments raised during the legal comment period for the DEIS. Plaintiff's provided monitoring information, photographs and descriptive comments for 113 routes proposed for designated motor vehicle use. Reconsideration of these comments, evaluation of road and trail maintenance, and application of the minimization criteria could change route designations in the Revised ROD.

4.) The proposal would incorporate language to clarify a Revised ROD that a minimum road system determination has not made.

The supplemental information presented in the SEIS will replace the corresponding information found in the August 2009 Salmon-Challis National Forest Travel Planning and OHV Designation Project FEIS. For example, the revised analysis of effects for routes in Idaho Roadless Areas and Recommended Wilderness Areas will replace the roadless and recommended wilderness environmental effects section of the FEIS. Similarly, the public comments and agency responses section of the SEIS will replace the public comments and agency responses section of the FElS. Other areas of the analysis that are not identified for supplementation within the SEIS will remain unaltered from their presentation in the FEIS. In this manner the SEIS and FEIS will be companion documents.

The Agency anticipates releasing a draft SEIS on or about July 20, 2012. The SEIS will be available electronically on the following webpage: http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/scnfflandmanagement/projects, or you can have a hard copy or compact disc. The Final SEIS should be completed by December 31, 2012.

The 2009 Salmon-Challis National Forest Travel Planning and OHV Designation Project Final EIS and ROD are available for review at any of the Salmon-Challis National Forest offices. Additional information can be obtained from Karen Gallogly by phone (208) 756-5103 or (406) 683-3853 or email kgallogly@fs.fed.us.

 


The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org
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