For Immediate Release, January 12, 2009
Contact: Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 249-5821
Bridgeport Ranger District Proposed Travel Management Plan for
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Threatens Species and Quiet Recreation
LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Nevada Wilderness Project have submitted comments to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest criticizing the Forest’s plans to designate over 300 miles of roads on the Bridgeport Ranger District as open to off-road vehicle use. The district’s proposal ignores the fact that increased off-road vehicle abuse would cause eight at-risk plant species, including the Masonic Mountain jewelflower and Bodie Hills draba, and animal species such as bighorn sheep to suffer undue harassment and destruction. It would also disrupt the majority of visitors who do not use off-road vehicles on the Forest but instead come to enjoy its peace and solitude.
The Bridgeport Ranger District, encompassing over 1 million acres on the Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest in both California and Nevada, has more than 1,500 miles of roads and trails already open to off-road vehicle use. Most of the proposed additions are unauthorized routes created by renegade off-road vehicle riders , and have not been professionally designed or cleared appropriate agency environmental compliance procedures.
Many of the proposed additions penetrate into areas that have been previously identified as roadless and degrade prime wildlife habitat, particularly bighorn sheep seclusion areas and critical mule deer winter range. A few proposed roads tarnish the proposed Wovoka Wilderness Area on Bald Mountain near Yerington, Nevada.
“ Bald Mountain and the proposed Wovoka Wilderness Area represent one of the largest Forest Service roadless areas in Nevada,” said John Wallin, director of the Nevada Wilderness Project. “The Forest Service proposal unnecessarily rewards past illegal off-road vehicle use to the detriment of wildlife.”
“By adding these routes, the Forest Service is giving its blessings to off-roaders who took it upon themselves to create new, unauthorized routes on the public’s lands without gaining the prior permission of the agency or following proper planning procedures,” said Rob Mrowka, the Center’s conservation advocate for Nevada. “To add insult to injury, the Forest Service has elected not to look at existing roads and routes that are inappropriate and causing damage to watersheds and other natural resources. The agency lacks the manpower and resources to adequately maintain and manage the existing approved roads and trails. How can adding 300 more miles of roads possibly be justified?”
The input provided to the Forest Service by the Center and Project included photographs documenting the current conditions of some of the roads to be added and included examples of areas such as Wilson Canyon, where the agency is failing to enforce a closure to an area already being significantly hurt by off-road vehicles.
Mrowka said one bright spot in the Forest Service’s proposed action is the closure of the majority of the forest to motorized cross-country travel (as required by the travel management planning rule of 2005) , which, if enforced, should lead to a decline in the creation of destructive renegade routes.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 200,000 members and activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.