new FS rules
New U.S. Forest Service rule could accelerate trail deconstruction
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The U.S. Forest Service has adopted a new rule that will allow the agency to fast-track the destruction of motorized trails, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
On Sept. 12, the Forest Service published a final rule in the Federal Register that adds three new "categorical exclusions" to its national Environmental Policy Act regulations "for activities that restore lands negatively impacted by water control structures, natural- and human-caused events, and roads and trails."
Categorical exclusions allow the agency to act without preparing a costly and time-consuming environmental assessment or environmental impact statement to determine the project's impacts.
Among other things, the new rule allows the U.S. Forest Service to obliterate "unneeded and unauthorized roads and trails" without doing an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The rule can't be used for recognized National Forest System Roads and National Forest System Trails.
When using the categorical exclusion related to roads and trails, the rule says U.S. Forest Service officials "will conduct appropriate scoping and public involvement assuring that citizen views are taken into account in an appropriate manner given the context of the decisions being made."
The rule also states that "this category will not be used to make access decisions about which roads and trails are to be designated for public use."
When the Forest Service sought public comments on the proposal last year, the AMA expressed concerns that the proposed rule would "allow a categorical exclusion from the current environmental review to accelerate the pace of road and trail deconstruction. In other words, these new categorical exclusions will make it much easier for the Forest Service to reduce the number and mileage of trails."
The AMA also asked why a categorical exclusion wasn't proposed for instances when the Forest Service restores trails for the safety of users.
"Now, more than ever, it's important for all riders to contact their local national forest and get on the contact list to be notified when the local forest plans to take any action on trails," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. "Since the Forest Service can move quickly to destroy trails, we must be prepared to move quickly to voice our concerns as motorized recreation enthusiasts when we can."
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Founded in 1924, the AMA is a not-for-profit member-based association whose mission is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. As the world's largest motorcycling rights and event sanctioning organization, the AMA advocates for riders' interests at all levels of government and sanctions thousands of competition and recreational events every year. The AMA also provides money-saving discounts on products and services for its members. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, the AMA honors the heroes and heritage of motorcycling. For more information, visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com.
Strange that they now need a CE to do this, since all roads and user created routes not on the MVUM are automatically closed with the completion of their TMA for whatever particular forest at that is doing one at that time.
Please contact your Federal reps and senators to support this bill and stop the FS from running roughshod over the public involvement process.
Forest Service Rule Would Allow for Expedited Trail Removal – McClintock Amendment Would Ensure Accountability
The Forest Service recently finalized the National Environmental Policy Act: Categorical Exclusions for Soil and Water Restoration Activities Rule which would allow for the obliteration and removal of legally-created roads and trails that many off-highway vehicle enthusiasts were promised would be reconsidered for inclusion in Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) revisions. As a result, Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an amendment to H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, that would prohibit the U.S. Forest Service from removing or altering any legally created roads or trails unless there has been a specific decision, which included adequate and appropriate public involvement, to decommission the specific road or trail in question. This amendment passed the full House today, (September 20).
The motorized recreation community expressed serious concerns to the Forest Service, in face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, written correspondence and in formal comments that the rule as proposed would allow for the obliteration of legally-created roads and trails that many off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts were promised would be reconsidered for inclusion in Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) revisions. Unfortunately changes made to the final rule did not adequately address our concerns.
The final rule would allow any “non-system” road or trail to be obliterated via major ground disturbing activity through an expedited process that does not include environmental analysis. Other than minimal comment requirements under NEPA for Categorical Exclusions, the new rule eliminates requirements for meaningful public involvement.
McClintock’s amendment to H.R. 1526, if enacted into law, would ensure that a formal decision, including public notification, comment and involvement, must be made to decommission a legally created road or trail before it could be removed.
Further, while “non-system” roads and trails may be off limits to off-highway vehicles as a result of the MVUM they may still be open to other recreational uses, including snowmobiles, yet the final rule would allow a CE to be used to remove these roads and trails ensuring that these user groups never have an opportunity to comment at any point in the process. The agency has, with very few exceptions, failed to analyze the existing and potential future demand for continuing use of non-system routes for non-motorized uses. The McClintock amendment will ensure that all users have voice in the process.
Passed with the McClintock amendments..
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