After years of working on a transportation plan for the Inyo National Forest, Forest staff has come up with a proposal on which dirt roads to keep and maintain and which to close off.
Now with the deadline to comment on the dirt road transportation plan fast approaching, the Inyo Supervisors have asked Forest Officials to give the public more time to speak up.
Under this new proposal some roads will become official, which means they get signs and maintenance, but others will be officially closed off to vehicle traffic.
Marty Hornick with the Forest Service explained to the Supervisors that of the 3000 miles of dirt roads and tracks in their proposal, 1200 miles are already in the road system and about 900 miles of roads will be added. This leaves 900 miles of dirt roads and track that would be closed.
Hornick explained that hundreds of the miles that havent made the cut are in the spaghetti bowl of roads through the Jeffery pines to the north and east of Mammoth. He explained to the supervisors that in some areas around Mammoth there are 350 miles of road in a ten mile by ten mile square.
Many of the roads in the maze around Mammoth will likely go away without much protest, but other areas are bound to be more contentious. Hornick explained that one of the roads that hasnt made the final cut is a connector road between Harkless Flat and Papoose Flat in the Inyo Mountains.
Other popular roads like Silver Canyon and the Buttermilk Road arent managed by the Forest Service so they wont be affected by this proposal. The contentious Furnace Creek road in the Whites has also been left out of this process.
There are a number of reasons that the Forest Service plans to close some roads and add others, but the main reason that some roads make the cut and others dont appears to be lawsuits. Supervisor Linda Arcularius pointed out that 40% of the Forest Service budget was spent on court cases. Supervisor Susan Cash also thought that these road issues would end up in court.
Nancy Upham with the Forest Service explained that the roads that they have proposed to keep are the most legally defensible. With 900 miles that could be closed off, Forest officials encourage people to bring their concerns to the series of public meetings starting this week.
The public comment period for this proposal ends November 15. With maps showing the many miles of roads to pour over, the Inyo Supervisors were adamant that people be given more time to comment.
The first of three public meetings on this topic was scheduled to start at 6:00 tonight at the Catholic Church in Bishop. A second meeting on this stage of the road plan is scheduled for Thursday at the Roadway Inn in Mammoth. This meeting also starts at 6:00. A third public meeting on the Inyo National Forest Transportation plan is scheduled for next Tuesday in Ridgecrest.