THE TRAVEL PLAN OF THE ASHLEY NATIONAL FOREST
The long awaited and totally predictable Ashley National Forest travel plan Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) was released in September.
Admittedly this proposal is a bit different than the Wild and Scenic River decision (see article, “What Happened...,” on page two of this issue.) In the W&SR decision, the Forest Service at least pretended the public voice mattered. In this travel plan the decision from the outset was based solely on motorized users and their concerns. As noted in the FEIS the Forest Service proposal responds to these needs identified in the travel plan:
The Ashley National Forest proposal allows motorized access on about 1,645 miles of roads and motorized trails.
The proposal goes even further, designating well over 300 unauthorized and undesignated routes as legal motorized routes open to a plethora of ATVs. These are all illegal, user-created routes. They were not created or analyzed by forest managers. They were literally made by motorized users in a blatant attempt to get around forest planning. Instead of being viewed as illegal routes, the Ashley has awarded shady behavior, making unauthorized and undesignated motorized routes the cornerstone and foundation of this new travel plan! These unauthorized and undesignated routes have never been analyzed for social or environmental impacts and aren’t analyzed in the travel plan. The Ashley simply dismisses most environmental impact issues by arguing that, since the routes already exist, there is no need to analyze environmental impacts!
Oh yes, on just the roadless areas adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness, the Ashley designated as legal some 28 unauthorized and undesignated illegal routes!
But the travel plan goes further still. Travel planning regulations require that dispersed motorized camping be confined to within 150 feet of designated routes. Motorized users vigorously complained and the Ashley responded by literally designating a new class of motorized routes, allowing dispersed camping on such routes exceeding 150 feet. That’s 255 routes that range from 300 feet to almost a half mile in length! All of these routes fall within the previously unauthorized and undesignated illegal routes now made legal for dispersed camping purposes and include the vast majority of unauthorized and undesignated routes noted above in both roadless and roaded country! In other words, ‘Forge these illegal routes to where you want to go, motorized users, and we (the Ashley National Motorized Route Authorizer) will make it okay for ya!’ It really is important to recognize there is no actual demand analysis of these routes other than motorized users demanding them. There are already thousands and thousands of acres of dispersed camping routes within 150 feet of designated routes on the forest.
Many local officials and motorized users are up in arms over this decision. To their credit, the Ashley did close or maintain closures on 79 miles of forest roads.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower