Forest Service eyes new 4-wheel roads | SierraSun.com

Forest Service eyes new 4-wheel roads

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun

Tahoe National Forest staff have proposed nearly 50 new off-highway routes covering close to 50 miles in a proposed update of its off-road vehicle route system.

Even so, the number of proposed new routes disappointed some who attended a meeting in Truckee Wednesday to review the U.S. Forest Service plan.

During a long and involved process, the Forest Service has been compiling public input and taking inventory of existing off-highway routes to develop a comprehensive map of the forest’s four-wheel-drive roadways.

Just over 100 routes were proposed for the Forest Service to consider after the agency held several public workshops in Truckee last fall to hear residents concerns and suggestions for other routes. The Forest Service took several factors into consideration when examining each route, said David Michael, Tahoe National Forest’s off-highway vehicle manager.

“We looked for a variety of trail experiences ” what was unique,” Michael said. “The maps are constantly in flux. There’s errors that are on the (current) map. We have to make sure that what we’re putting out is true and correct.”

Of the thirty or so people who attended Wednesday’s meeting, some members in the audience were surprised by the notably reduced number of routes in the Forest Service proposal.

To that point Michael added, “This is just a starting point. The number of routes may go up or down.”

Forty-eight routes were proposed to add to existing four-wheel roads in the Forest Service system, which are included under a temporary Forest Order, and total 52 more miles for off-road enthusiasts to explore. Upon completion, the motorized vehicle map of the Tahoe region will designate where and when trail users are allowed to travel.

Mike Blide from the Truckee Trails Foundation asked, “What is the enforcement plan and can citizens take part?”

With limited resources and funding to enforce trail users off designated routes, the map will help the Forest Service carry out the order, Michael said.

Jay England, co-owner of Thin Air Motorsports in Truckee, voiced the need for communication between all types of trail users.

“This community seems to want to work together,” said Joanne Roubique, Truckee district ranger. “We may get to a place further in the process where its harder to work together. We have some hard issues to deal with as we move forward.”

Identifying the inventory of existing routes began in 2002 and was completed by the Forest Service last summer. More than 800 people participated in an online survey conducted last year by the Forest Service. The three most important attributes of OHV trails, according to participants in the survey, include the physical characteristics of the trail, its maintenance and the trail length. Scenic views, solitude, camp sites and vegetation also rated as important factors to respondents, according to the Forest Service.

In the Tahoe region, the compilation of off-highway routes started as a test for the area, but is now also a nationwide process of the U.S. Forest Service, said Bonnie Pettit, a member of the recreational staff with Tahoe National Forest.

The deadline for public comment regarding the proposed route system is May 14. The Forest Service’s next step is to develop a draft environmental impact statement, which is expected to be completed this fall.