With the future of recreational vehicle travel hanging in the balance as the Forest Service works on a new travel management plan for the Inyo National Forest, the Inyo Supervisors want more time to digest the plan. Rather then wait for a draft of of the plan, the Board considered asking for more time, ahead of time.
Currently 3600 miles of dirt roads and vehicle trails on the Inyo National Forest are being run through the environmental process. When the final environmental document is finished, some roads used for recreation could be closed off.
At the meeting in Independence Tuesday, Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch told the board that the Forest Service is looking at six alternatives that range from no action, meaning that all the existing roads stay open, to just keeping the roads that are official now, meaning that 2000 miles of roads could be shut down.
Upchurch said that the plan is to have a rough draft of the Environmental Impact Statement done in December or January. That would then lead to a 45 day period for the public to comment on that road plan before the final draft would lock the decision in sometime in the spring of 2009.
With deadlines from the Forest Service Regional Office, Upchurch explained that the 45 days was the minimum legal requirement for public comment on the draft EIS. With another round of maps to go through once the draft comes out, and a winter schedule that could keep people from checking the roads until spring, the supervisors were concerned with the tight timeframe.
Supervisor Susan Cash asked that the public comment period at least be doubled to 90 days. Nothing was decided at the board meeting on Tuesday, but the supervisors are expected to type up a formal request to the Forest Service for additional public comment time.