My Turn: Tahoe OHV plan should be rejected
“Two months is not enough,” which appeared in a recent Sierra Sun, was a well-written feature with a few facts understated. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is actually 1,743 pages and weighs almost 16 pounds. These numbers do not include the associated maps or the thousands of pages of supporting documents located within the Administrative Record.
The most pressing issue is that the provided comment period is too short. Even our Board of Supervisors has acknowledged this shortcoming and has written a letter to the Forest Service requesting more time for reasonable public comment.
The article states that Environmental groups argue that impacts to water quality, wildlife, and quiet recreation are not being thoroughly addressed. Let’s look at the facts.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) states “Most of the watersheds on the Tahoe are highly regulated systems”.
The DEIS goes on to state that “Compared to other parts of California and the United States, the Sierra Nevada overall has relatively low sediment yields,” and that “General estimates show that the Sierra Nevada has the lowest sediment yield in California”. The DEIS also states, “This project is not likely to impact existing water supply to any measurable extent”. A search of the Administrative Record shows that the Forest Service surveyed more than 100 individual stream crossings with very few concerns expressed.
The DEIS allocates more than 330 pages to the study of terrestrial and aquatic species. In 2006 the Tahoe National Forest published the “Land and Resources Management Plan Five-Year Comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation Report”. Of the 25 animal species included, 13 were recommended to be removed from future monitoring, two showed a “Non-significant downward trend”, two species were not located, seven species were stable or increasing in numbers with one so rapidly growing in numbers that a program of eradication was recommended!
Those seeking a “quiet” experience in the Tahoe have a great deal to choose from. First, there is the Granite Chief Wilderness area that encompasses 25,680 acres of total solitude. Secondly, we have 200,675 acres of designated “Roadless” areas were few roads or trails exist. These roads allow those seeking the quiet experience to access these areas within the forest. It should be noted that only 4% of visits to the Tahoe occur within the Wilderness.
These facts show that even with the unmanaged OHV use of the past, the Tahoe National Forest and it’s inhabitants are thriving. The introduction of a controlled road and trail environment should only improve the already excellent condition of the Tahoe National Forest. This of course depends upon an adequate system of trails be made available to the public.
With almost 1,000,000 OHV annual user days, the Tahoe is the most visited national forest in California by OHV enthusiasts.
The Tahoe National Forest originally mapped over 2,500 miles of non-forest system trails. With the advent of Travel Management, these trails are now referred to as unauthorized trails.
They then removed more than 1,000 miles for various reasons, leaving only 1,400 miles to be considered. These are old logging roads, mining trails and some are trails created by users over the years when the forest was open to cross country travel.
The proposal includes less than 5 percent of these trails in their plan, closing the vast majority. The resulting channeling of too many users onto too few trails will likely result in an increase in damage to the environment.
I would guess that the majority of Wilderness Society members writing letters from out of state have never visited the Tahoe National Forest and never will. This does not stop them from responding to the Society’s vast e-mail campaign urging them to write with talking points provided.
How many have heard of the Midewin or Kisatchie National Forests? How comfortable would you feel writing a letter regarding their uses and futures?
It is true that the forest belongs to all of the people, but those that know, use, and help maintain the forest have the largest stake in and should have the final say as to it’s ultimate use.
With 17 national forests located within the state of California, there is room for all types of use and all users.
I urge the Forest Supervisor to acknowledge the Tahoe’s position as the premier OHV forest in California, and ensure that it remains so with his final decision.