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RECREATION GROUPS SEEK TO ENTER COLORADO TRAIL LAWSUIT

This lawsuit comes in the broader context of travel planning throughout the National Forest System.  In 2005, the agency promulgated a nationwide rule requiring designation of roads, trails and areas for motorized access.  The resulting agency decisions have spawned lawsuits in Montana, California, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina and elsewhere.  Trail-based recreation interests have frequently participated in those actions.

"Our groups have long championed effective recreation management," said John Bongiovanni, a COHVCO Director.  "We are far from satisfied with the outcomes on these Forests. It is the motorized recreation community who apparently shoulders the burden of defending trails long used by all.  It is essential our role continue when preservationists move the dialogue behind courtroom doors," Bongiovanni concluded. 

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COHVCO is a nonprofit organization whose member enthusiasts, organizations and businesses collectively comprise over 200,000 Coloradoans and regular visitors to Colorado and other western states who contribute millions of dollars and thousands of hours annually to off-highway vehicle recreation through registration fees, retail expenditure, project participation and related support.  www.cohvco.org

The Trails Preservation Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the sport of motorized trail riding, educating all user groups and the public on the value of sharing public lands for multiuse recreation, while protecting public lands for future generations.  www.coloradotpa.org

The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org

 

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BFG Announces The Outstanding Trails Vote

Fans in the off-road community can vote at bfgoodrichtrails2011.outdoorhub.com.  The winning trail will receive a $4,000 grant on behalf of BFGoodrich Tires for trail conservation and maintenance efforts.  The four trails up for vote are:

• Golden Spike Trail in Moab, Utah – supported by Red Rock 4-Wheelers
• Dusy-Ershim OHV Route in Sanger, Calif. – supported by Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno
• Blanca Peak Trail in Blanca, Colo. – supported by Creeper Jeepers Gang
• Mirror Lake Trail in Sierra National Forest, Calif. – supported by Lock and Low 4-Wheel Drive Club

“Off-road enthusiasts are passionate about their trails, and we anticipate many will offer their input,” said Marcus Baffoe-Bonnie, BFGoodrich Tires country marketing manager.  “For the past six years, the BFGoodrich Outstanding Trails program has recognized off-road trails as well as the clubs that run them. Congratulations to Interlake Trail 19 and Morrison Trail for being named 2011 Outstanding Trails, and of course we wish the best of luck to the four trails that are up for vote!”

The Outstanding Trails Vote

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Los Padres - What's Happening??

At that time, BlueRibbon Coalition brought together a coalition (AMA D36 and CA4WDC) to file as intervenors.  At that time, NO OTHER group was interested in joining the lawsuit.

As a result of the litigation, a "settlement" was reached and the decision was announced in fall of 2010.  That settlement called for the litigant parties to establish a collaborative team to determine a prioritized list of routes within Inventoried Roadless Areas for decommissioning and restoration action.  And, all proposed actions are to be subjected to a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for final disposition.

That list contains all of the routes (slightly over 2,700) within the 85 Inventoried Roadless Areas within the four southern California forests.  The list does contain some designated system trails such as Snowy 19W04, Halfmoon-Kinkaid/Piru Creek 20W07, Arrastra - 20W05, Miller Jeep/Lockwood Valley - 20W06 and a few others.

That team has been meeting since April, 2011.  The result of the team discussions has been to establish a means of providing a "score" for the routes based on resource issues and access potential.  I have participated in each team meeting.

A number of issues have arisen trying to work through that process.  Most important, the quality (and quantity) of data held within Forest Service records.  Basically, there are a number of glaring holes in the Forest Service data.  Many of the routes on the list (over 2,700) have no data points at all.

Of these routes, virtually all of them are segments.  Some segments join system designated routes.  Other segments join with an isolated system designated route.

Keep in mind, the team direction was to develop a prioritized list of routes for further disposition action.  NO ACTION will be taken based on the results of the collaborative team process.  All actions are subject to NEPA analysis where the final disposition of the route segment will be to keep it as it is an integral part of the existing route system or decommission it.

Overall, I have argued against the environmental community introducing new or additional data that is not substantiated by existing Forest Service data.  This process was to determine a list of prioritized routes for site-specific analysis within a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

And, I have insisted (it appears it will stand) that the prioritized list be a snapshot at a point in time that reflects the data available as of that date.  And, that list needs to be able to be replicated at any future date.

As this list is a tool the land mangers can use to prioritize their workload, I am open to them having the ability to fill in missing data and correct data errors.  However, the integrity of the original list developed as a result of the collaborative process needs to be retained.

My stance throughout the discussions is that no “on-ground” actions will occur that are not part of a NEPA analysis.  The list in and of itself is not a substitute for planning nor is it a decision document that defines actions to implement.

My hope is the site-specific NEPA analysis will substantiate the need for the route to be retained as part of the designated system.  As some routes have a system designation, there is a potential they could found to be duplicate and subject to proposed closure based on Travel Management Sub-part A.

Looking forward, the list does provide a known entity to begin ground-truthing the routes prior to the SEIS comment period. The SEIS will be a critical time to bring forth the importance of routes for recreation.

The “list” will be available for public review first week of August.  The list will contain the Inventoried Roadless Area name, route identifier, and other data elements and can be sorted as necessary.

In preparing for the SEIS, it will be necessary to create sub-lists from the main list that identify the routes within Inventoried Roadless Areas.  Each one of those routes needs to have an on-the-ground review that can determine the validity of the data listed for the route.  At this point in time, the Los Padres and San Bernardino have the most routes involved.

 

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RECREATION GROUPS ARGUE FOR NEW LAW BEFORE NINTH CIRCUIT

The case was originally brought in the U.S. District of Idaho by preservationist organizations who sued the Forest Service seeking greater restrictions on motorized vehicle access to the Minidoka Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest.  The Magic Valley Trail Machine Association, the Idaho Recreation Council and BlueRibbon were denied intervention in the case.  The district court ruled, in large part, that intervention was prevented by the "Federal Defendant Rule," unique to the Ninth Circuit, which maintains that since only "the federal defendant" must comply with statutes like the National Environmental Policy Act, only the federal defendant can be a party to a suit alleging noncompliance with such "environmental" laws.

The appeal was initially argued on March 9, 2010, to a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel by Turcke, opposed not by "the federal defendant" but by lawyers with the Western Environmental Law Center.  Rather than issuing a decision, the panel asked for further briefing on the question of whether the Court should convene en banc to consider abandoning the Federal Defendant Rule.  On September 30, 2010, the Court issued an order indicating that a majority of nonrecused active judges on the court voted to hear the appeal en banc.

An en banc proceeding is unusual and is ordered only when necessary to establish or maintain uniformity of prior court decisions or when the proceeding involves a question of great importance.  Under Ninth Circuit rule, an en banc court consists of the Chief Judge of the circuit and ten additional judges drawn by lot from the active judges of the circuit.

After the Court announced it would rehear the case en banc, numerous parties in addition to MIC-SVIA submitted "friend of the court" briefs in support of the recreation groups' position.  They include the Kootenai, Coquille, Kalispel, Shoshone-Bannock and other Indian tribes; Coos, Grant, Harney and Wallowa Counties, Oregon; the State of Alaska; Idaho Governor Otter and Office of Species Conservation; Western Urban Water Coalition; Southern Nevada Water Authority; American Petroleum Institute, Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A. and National Manufacturers Association; American Forest Resource Council; Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association; and Safari Club International.

A video recording of this argument is available for public viewing at  http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_subpage.php?pk_vid=0000006124.  The status of this and other cases being considered en banc, including the names of individual panel members, can be viewed on the Court's website at http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/enbanc/.

E&E News Article
LITIGATION: Court to weigh private interests' intervention in NEPA disputes
http://www.sharetrails.org/public_lands/?section=EandE_News_13

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org

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Stipulation Redirects Six Rivers Energies Toward Collaborative Planning

Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, states, "We are pleased to see this reaction, which we think validates the ongoing collaborative stakeholder process.  We look forward to release of proposals that will update the motor vehicle use map and encourage all interested recreationists and forest visitors to review and be actively involved in the ongoing administrative process."

The parties bringing the suit are Del Norte County, Lake Earl Grange, Del Norte Rod and Gun Club, North Coast Cliffhangers Four Wheel Drive Club, California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs, and the BlueRibbon Coalition.

Link to Stipulation:  http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/Stipulation_Six_Rivers-Order_Staying_Case.11-30-10.pdf

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org


 

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