WRNF travel management plan to be released in spring | PostIndependent.com

WRNF travel management plan to be released in spring

If you like driving your Hummer, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle into the White River National Forest, change may soon be afoot. The White River National Forest is in the process of rewriting its travel management plan, which was last updated in 1984 and determines how the forest’s road system will be managed. The document will determine which of the forest’s roads will be part of its official road system and where motorized vehicles can be used. The draft environmental impact statement for the travel management plan will be released in either May or June, said WRNF public information officer Kristi Ponozzo. The statement was scheduled to be released last year, but a federal rule restricting motorized vehicle use on public lands nationwide affected the revision of the WRNF’s travel management plan. Ponozzo said forest officials want the statement to be released in the spring or summer when people can “field test” the proposal by looking at forest roads themselves. Ponozzo said the revised travel management plan will be similar to the plan currently in effect. The only changes, she said, will be “minor” and be made to comply with the new federal rule. The rule, which was announced last November, mandates that official roads and trails be designated clearly on maps and marked in the field. Under the rule, local forests will determine whether “bandit” trails – roads or paths created by off-roaders – should be added to the official Forest Service road system. The WRNF estimated in its “notice of intent” for the travel management plan that there are more than 500 miles of known roads and trails that aren’t officially part of the WRNF road system. The forest’s plan is to either designate “bandit” trails as roads and maintain them, or eliminate them. Any new road considered for the system would have to be reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act. The notice of intent, which is available on the WRNF’s Web site and describes the need for the plan revision, also says that the Forest Service’s goal is to decommission 22 miles of unneeded road per year. The WRNF has between 2,000 and 2,500 miles of roads and more than 1,600 miles of trails. Environmental groups, such as the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, claim there are upwards of 500 more miles of “bandit” trails snaking through WRNF.

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