A newly released Draft Environmental Impact Statement could shed light on plans for dirt roads and tracks on the Inyo National Forest. After years of public meetings, discussions, and work, people will now have 60 days to comment on the plans.
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, others are expected to become part of the official system.
The Forest Service is looking at six alternatives that range from no action, meaning that all the existing roads, campground spurs, and dirt tacks stay open, to just keeping the roads that are official now, meaning that 2000 miles of roads could be shut down.
Marty Hornick with the Forest Service says that its likely the final alternative will lie between these two alternatives. No decisions have yet been made on which roads will become official Forest roads and which will be blocked or signed off. Once the public comment period closes, Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch is expected to decide on one of these six alternatives.
Like the many public meetings in the past, pouring over the maps, and the miles of roads on those maps is key to understanding this process. Hornick explained that with 14 areas to look at, and six alternatives for each area, there are actually 84 total maps to look at.
What the road system is expected to look like under each alternative has been mapped out and put on CDs for those that requested the information. For others, the maps are now available on the Inyo National Forest website.
While the Draft Environmental Statement has started to circulate, the public comment period clock doesnt start to tick until this Saturday. From that point on the public has 60 days to send comment to staff at the Inyo National Forest. A series of public meetings is scheduled in February for Hawthorne and Dyer, Nevada, Mammoth, Ridgecrest, and Bishop. Drop in sessions to talk with Forest Staff at their offices in Mammoth, Lone Pine and Bishop are scheduled as well.
The first public meeting for the Eastern Sierra is scheduled for Mammoth on the 10th of February. Well keep you posted as the public meeting dates approach.