March 31 marks the end of the public comment period for the Inyo National Forest Motorized Transportation system. With less then one week left to put your two cents in, Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch, who will decide on which plan the Forest Service will go with, encourages everyone whos interested in dirt roads and motorized trails to send in comments.
The 3600 miles of dirt roads and vehicle trails on the Inyo National Forest are being run through the environmental process. When the final environmental document is finished, some roads used for recreation could be closed off while others will be officially added to the Forest road system.
In a written statement, Upchurch says that the use of off highway vehicles is one of the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation on national forest lands and that the goal of this process is to create a system of routes that provides recreational opportunities and access for public motorized use, while providing protection to national forest resources.
With so many local people who have taken time and local knowledge to help with the process, Upchurch says that he has been very impressed with the positive tone and cooperative spirit that you have brought to this effort.
As the Forest Service looks at the road system in the Eastern Sierra, there has been talk in the community that the real goal of this travel management process is to limit mining on public lands.
According to Upchurch, this is not true. He says, I want to make it really clear that this process is focused on designating a system of roads and trails for public recreational use. Access for non-recreational uses such as mining will not be affected by this project because they are, and will continue to be, authorized through separate processes. Similarly, access for non-motorized uses, such as hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use will not be directly affected.
Right now Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch is scheduled to pick from a list of six alternative plans for roads on the forest. A diverse group of stakeholders, including the motorized use supporters the Advocates for Access to Public Lands and the conservation group The Friends of the Inyo, along with local politicians, hammered out and are pushing a plan known as alternative six.
All six alternatives and the maps that go along can be viewed at the Inyo National Forest website. The comment period ends on March 31.