Local Cooperation on Forest Road Plan

A Wednesday night meeting on the Forest Service Plan to possibly close 900 miles of dirt roads and tracks on the Inyo National Forest drew a sizable crowd of people concerned with the fate of off highway transportation in the Eastern Sierra.

While there was a healthy portion of the usual head butting between the Forest Service, motorized recreation fans, and those with an environmental bent, this time around there also appeared to be a spirit of cooperation between the usually antagonistic sides.

Frank Stewart with the conservation group the Friends of the Inyo and Greg Weirick with the motorized access group the Advocates for Access to Public Lands, stood up to shake hands after a month pouring over maps to find roads that they agreed should stay and roads that they agreed should go away. It turns out, they said, that both sides agreed on about 90% of the 150 miles of road they discussed. With 900 miles of roads to argue over, however, the group did not have time to reach agreement on everything.

Of 3000 miles of dirt roads, and vehicle tracks on the Inyo, the Forest Service has left 900 miles of the list of proposed official roads, the end result likely being closure. Weirick and Stewart explained that they didn’t haggle over mileage, but over which roads made sense. With more road mileage to discuss, Wierick explained that the really important public comment period comes after the Forest Service releases a Draft Environmental Impact Statement this summer.

Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch called this collaborative effort between the two sides very significant. After the recommendations are filtered through the mass of government regulations, its Upchurch who will decide which roads make the final cut. The final decision on the fate of about 900 miles of dirt roads on the Inyo is expected in the fall. The finished road plan is expected to go into action in 2010, as long as the Forest Service doesn’t get sued.

A Wednesday night meeting on the Forest Service Plan to possibly close 900 miles of dirt roads and tracks on the Inyo National Forest drew a sizable crowd of people concerned with the fate of off highway transportation in the Eastern Sierra.

While there was a healthy portion of the usual head butting between the Forest Service, motorized recreationalists, and those with an environmental bent, this time around there also appeared to be a spirit of cooperation between the usually antagonistic sides.

 

 
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