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USFS Travel Management Plan
The following was extracted from the Eastern Washington ATV Association's August - September 2009 issue of ATV Finish Line.
It contains some interesting thoughts on how the TMP works and how to make it work for us! Notice the part about how to apply the NEPA (paragraph 13)!
US Forest Service, Travel Management Plans – By Gary Prewitt
The USFS Travel Management process, nationally, is a disaster. This of course is only my opinion. The 2005 "final rule" left too much up to the local land managers. Depending on the Land Managers individual biases and whims will dictate how this plays out in every National Forest. The Colville N.F. is the only forest in our area with a completed Travel Management Plan (TMP) and published a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). Having been involved in this process continually in the Colville National Forest, here are some things that I have learned. To anyone who is involved or wants to be involved with this ongoing process, I suggest trying to keep all existing motorized trails currently in use and concentrating on roads at first. Then in the continuing process go after new trails and roads, year after year.
1. Time wise. At this time many forests are just now starting the process. Without an already pre-determined, (at least in the mind of the land managers) travel plan. I don't believe there is any way that a final Travel Management Plan for any given forest will be complete by the Forest Service mandated end of this year. Although they all say they will.
2. The Travel Management Plan is a living ,ongoing document, up for review to increase or decrease riding opportunities on a yearly basis. With a new Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) printed yearly. This IS NOT a one time and it's set in stone document. The overall direction of the individual forest's "Forest Plan" plays a huge part in what land managers are willing to do with the Travel Management Plan (TMP). So being involved in the updating of both plans is important.
3. The Forest Service has 5 levels of road maintenance. They receive federal money (not enough) from the US Department of Transportation for the up keep and maintenance of level 3-5 (passenger car) forest roads. Therefore, arguably, these roads do not fall into the "primitive" road category discussed in RCW 46.09 http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.09.
4. All level 2 maintenance (high clearance vehicle) F.S. roads are eligible to be included into a travel management plan. The Colville did this without going through the NEPA process. Saying these roads did not require NEPA since they were currently open to motor vehicle traffic and that adding another motor vehicle type did not change anything. They now are doing NEPA for any additions and connections to form "loops". At first I was against doing NEPA for the additions because it adds much more time to the process, but NEPA actually gives us more protections from the greenies when done right.
5. All level 1 maintenance, a.k.a. closed roads require the NEPA process to open for motorized use.
6. The F.S. will do a "Mixed Use Analysis" on every proposed level 3-5 road or segment of road that allows OHVs and other motor vehicle traffic to occupy the same road at the same time. The individual forests, road engineers attitude toward OHVs is critical here. Roads will be dropped from consideration to the TMP for little to no good reason. Study the Mixed Use Analysis process. In a way, it is a oxymoron. The same things that make the road a lower maintenance level is the same things the engineers want to use to drop them from consideration. (curvy, limited sight distance, rougher, etc.)
7. The F.S. has a huge problem with WA law RCW 46.09. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.09.117. Age of drivers. Especially when it relates to Mixed Use on higher maintenance level roads.
8. Individual activists are a great asset at these meetings and do great things to dispute absurd comments and propaganda . However, numbers is the only thing that gets the attention of the bureaucrats. The more numbers of people who stand for a given point of view, the more likely to succeed.
9. Public safety is the one big item used as an excuse for most all negative actions. F.S. land managers are afraid of their own shadows. Most have individual E & O insurance for that. They need to be reminded about the federal Torts Claims Act and its revision and also the State law RCW 4.24
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=4.24. Most don't even know about the state law. We all know any attorney can file suit for anything, right or wrong. That’s why there are so many of them.
10. Land Managers will probably need reminding that they have the ability via forest orders to temporally close roads and trails for such things as seasonal or logging, etc. They tend to forget this when involved in the process. They also need reminding that by internal rule, they (FS, BLM, etc.) are required to abide by state law unless in direct conflict with Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)'s. They don't want you to know this in most cases.
11. You need facts and figures such as crash and accident data, traffic counts etc. and knowledge of the Forest Service’s own regulations and manuals to win arguments with them. Their plates are so full that in most cases they don't even know their own rules and regulations on a particular subject. Regulations and Manuals are available from the Forest Service on-line. http://www.fs.fed.us/publications/
12. Push the economics of local surrounding communities and get county and community leaders involved. Horseman and Mt. bikers are slowly learning that we are more their friends than the hiking folks. Cultivate these folks if you can. Show a united front from all the motorized user groups. Infighting between dirt bike, ATV and 4x4 groups kills all credibility.
13. Look at having any local government entity (city, county, school board, water district, etc.) send a letter to the Forest Supervisor requiring them to "coordinate" (important word) their travel management with them. Makes the local entity an equal player with the Forest Service instead of always reacting and playing catch up. Check this website for more info on this: http://www.stewards.us
[My comments: I looked at the above web site and it shows how to use NEPA to require any government agency to coordinate with local government entities. The case they site is the TTC (Trans-Texas Corridor). It was successfully blocked by the local school districts and communities to the extent the federal government recommended the "no build" option!]
14. Trails are a whole different category. There are no monies for any construction or re-construction. After our legislature stealing $9.5 million it doesn't look like there will be any money any time soon. However now is the time to start planning for the future when money is available.
15. Last, but not least. The lady who is the OHV manager for Region 6 of the U.S. Forest Service in Portland, OR (Oregon, Washington) is not particularly OHV friendly. That also plays a part with supervisors and managers.
07 Jeep Rubicon AT Soft top
Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (WOHVA http://www.wohva.org)
North Idaho Trail Blazers (NITB; http://www.nitrailblazers.org)