BLUERIBBON COALITION REACTS TO ELDORADO ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL DECISION

The Pacific Southwest Regional Office of the U.S. Forest Service, on June 27, 2008, issued its decision on numerous administrative appeals from the Eldorado National Forest Motorized Travel Management Plan. The Decision affirmed the Travel Plan and rejected the broad spectrum of appeal points raised.

“This outcome was unfortunately predictable,” said Don Amador, Western Representative of the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), a national recreation advocacy organization. BlueRibbon and many of its members and pro-access partners have been closely involved in the current travel planning process and the long history preceding it.

“We continue to be displeased with the final decision and the fact that the Forest Service seems to have so easily walked away from hundreds of miles of previously-maintained roads and trails that were historically open to the public,” Amador observed.

The current travel plan reflects the 2005 “Travel Management Rule” requiring that wheeled motorized vehicle use be managed under a system of designated roads, trails and areas. In addition to the Rule, the Eldorado experienced a unique history of more than a decade of litigation involving claims by diverse interest groups asserting the Forest had failed to provide too much, as well as not enough, mechanized access.

“The appeal regulations provided little maneuvering room for the agency to reassess this decision,” stated Paul Turcke, a Boise, Idaho attorney representing the BlueRibbon Coalition and other recreation groups in the lawsuit and planning process.

“Recreation interests are assessing all available options and are in this debate for the long haul, and we assume the same can be said of their preservationist counterparts,” Turcke concluded.

This appeal decision constitutes the final administrative determination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Travel Plan can be implemented on or after the 15th business day following the date of the appeal decision.