ASHLEY NATIONAL FOREST DENIES APPEALS OF TRAVEL PLAN
On the last day of 2009 the Regional Forester denied our Ashley travel plan appeal-- all conservation appeals, in fact-- arguing all procedural hurdles were met.
Substance be damned. Common sense buried. Welcome home, ORVers and ATVers. The travel plan was prepared to accommodate one set of forest users--the needs plainly specific to ATV/ORV users. It was clear from the outset (for a history, see LYNX 8, 10, & 12/07, 12/08 and 8/09) that only one set of public commentors--motorized users--mattered. Broad, meaningful policy, conservation, preservation, roadless or ecological issues were never on the table--only specific routes that mattered to motorized users.
The foundation of this travel plan is the formal designation of some 332 unauth-orized/undesignated routes--routes created illegally by off-road vehicle users! These routes were not created or ever analyzed by forest managers and planners. This travel plan honors this shady behavior by formally recognizing these routes!
On its face, this is not professional forest planning. It is nothing short of acquiescence to motorized users who have chosen route placement independent of forest managers, forest planning processes and public involvement. There is no disputation. This is further exacerbated by the routine suggestion offered by the travel plan that environmental impacts of these hundreds of routes are minimal or non-existent because the routes are already in place. The truth is those routes were never analyzed for environmental impacts of any sort because they weren’t put in place through Forest Service environmental planning and analysis processes.
It is also deeply important and meaningful to note that about 109 unauthorized and undesignated routes within the Forest’s potential wilderness and inventoried roadless areas were incorporated into the travel plan (about 28 routes were designated in roadless areas adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness). The action here is particularly egregious because of the unique undeveloped nature of these areas! There is certainly no rationale offered as to why these routes need to be within the undeveloped areas; they just are because off-road vehicle users pioneered them!
Adding additional betrayal to this process is the context of the dispersed camping spur routes. In this case, the Forest Service proposed some 255 unauthorized/undesignated dispersed camping sites. The Ashley constrained dispersed camping to 150 feet from authorized and designated routes, adopting the position of all of Utah’s national forests. Literally thousands and thousands of acres of land, under this 150 foot rule, are available to dispersed camping! The Ashley, then, promptly spoofed and foiled that decision, however, by designating some 255 dispersed camping spurs, longer than 150 feet, accessing various favorite dispersed motorized camping spots for a few local motorized dispersed campers.
There was no analysis in the travel plan to suggest that the proverbial no vacancy sign would need to be posted with respect to dispersed camping being constrained by the 150 foot rule. The dispersed camping spur roads are not in any way needed to meet the demand or need for dispersed camping. They were adopted only to satisfy a few local users who have pioneered their own unauthorized/undesignated routes for dispersed camping.
There is something deeply and professionally wrong with a process so blatant in its willingness to utilize unauthorized/undesignated motorized routes as the foundation of the travel plan.
But procedural hurdles were crossed.