The walls of the Catholic Church auditorium in Bishop were plastered with maps Tuesday night as locals gathered to discuss the fate of about 900 miles of dirt roads on the Inyo National Forest. New forest rules coming down from the top require local staff to create a management plan for dirt roads on National Forest land that could shut down about 900 miles. These plans have enraged some locals.
1200 miles of dirt roads are already in the system and 900 more are slated to be added, leaving an additional 900 miles of road to be closed off. Few will miss some of these roads, but others are spurs that could lead to a favorite spot to camp, hike or hunt. Others may lead to a mine that someone might like to explore. Either way there are a lot of maps to look over before the deadline for public comments on November 15.
As part of this process, earlier this year the Forest Service made it illegal to drive cross-country on a motorcycle, ATV, or in a truck. The idea was to keep people on the existing roads and trails so no new roads would be created. Now, the plan is not only to keep people from carving out new roads but to cut back on the number of dirt roads on Forest land.
Talking to Forest Service officials Wednesday night it appears that a change in federal rules regarding areas designated as roadless has spurred officials to close roads that cant be legally defended. Any side roads that head into these designated roadless areas are slated to be closed off.
What ever the reason for closing off some of these tracks and roads, many at the meeting werent happy with the Forest Service plan. Some felt like their input over the years had been ignored, others threatened civil disobedience if the Forest Service did gate off many of these roads.
With a November 15th deadline for public comments on this road plan, a public meeting on Inyo National Forest roads is scheduled for tomorrow night in Mammoth. The meeting starts at 6:00 pm at the Roadway Inn. There is another public meeting in Ridgecrest next Tuesday.
With 900 miles of road to comment on, the Inyo Supervisors have asked Inyo Forest officials to give the public an extension. Whether local forest officials will be able to give people more time is yet to be seen.