The future of off-road access in the forest | SierraSun.com

The future of off-road access in the forest

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunA Forest Service off-road vehicle trail from Verdi Peak gets a lot of traffic during the non-winter months.

A plan to change off-road vehicle access to Tahoe National Forest could impact all outdoor enthusiasts in the area.

The U.S. Forest Service has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Tahoe National Forest Travel Management plan and is seeking public comment.

“The draft document looks at four different questions: whether cross country travel should be allowed; which unauthorized trails should be added to the existing system; whether or not we should establish seasons of use; and class of vehicle,” said Ann Westling, spokeswoman for Tahoe National Forest.

Out of seven alternatives being studied, the preferred one would eliminate cross country travel (off designated roads and trails), Westling said.

Looking at the 2,800 miles of designated trail, the alternative would also add 238 miles of an existing 1,400 miles of illegal trails she said.

Restrictions during wet times of year to reduce erosion and water quality issues would also be added, Westling said, along with restrictions on vehicle types by trail.

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“It would add some trails but it would also close cross country use and some illegal trails,” Westling said.

Stan Van Velson, Off Road Vehicle Campaign Coordinator for The Wilderness Society, said the plan favors off-road vehicle use over other forms of recreation.

“They’ve chosen to ignore the current system and add additional miles where people traditionally go who are interested in quiet recreation and escaping from the noise, dust, and pollution,” Van Velson said.

He instead suggested focusing on the existing 2,800 miles of legal roads and trails.

But Doug Abrams, a local avid off-highway vehicle user, said the plan will restrict access too much not only for off-road vehicles, but for everybody.

“Public comment is needed for this public land in jeopardy,” Abrams said.

The U.S. Forest Service will hold an open house at the Resort at Squaw Creek today, Oct. 7 from 3 to 5 p.m., followed by a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Those interested should submit comments on the plan by Nov. 26 to Tahoe National Forest, Travel Management Team, 631 Coyote St., Nevada City, CA 95959 or via e-mail to: tnf_rte_desig@fs.fed.us.