SILVER CITY, NM; June 10, 2014 – The Gila National Forest has completed its Travel Management Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell has signed the Record of Decision selecting Alternative G.
With the publication of the legal notice in the forest's newspapers of record, the start of a 45-day appeal period and resolution will begin.
Alternative G was selected after thorough analysis by forest specialists and evaluation of over 2,000 comments received during the formal public comment period from individuals, organizations, and elected officials.
"I appreciate the public's patience in this final decision on the designation of open roads, trails, and areas for motorized vehicle use. Implementation of the decision is expected in early 2015 once the appeal period has passed, and the official Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM), which displays the open road system, is available free to the public," Russell said.
Russell adds that the decision is a change in use of the forest as cross-country travel will no longer be allowed. With any major change, time, tolerance, and education are needed as the process moves forward.
Highlights of the decision:
· Approximately 96 percent of non-wilderness lands will be within two miles of an open road, about 99 percent within three miles.
The decision is a designated system of roads, trails, and other areas for motorized vehicle use.
The decision keeps open 3,334 miles of road, increases motorized trail opportunities from 16 to 179 miles and maintains a 3-acre area for motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle use. The 908 miles of roads closed are generally ½ to 1 mile in length. All closed roads will be accessible for emergency response.
3.3 million acres of forest remain open to all users; users can go anywhere on the forest if on foot, horseback, or canoe. Only the use of motorized travel is restricted to the designated open travel routes.
· Hunters are allowed to drive up to 300 feet from either side of roads designated with a corridor to retrieve their big game.
· Camping continues with 1,316 miles of designated motorized dispersed camping corridors and 36 areas.
Fuelwood cutters can use their motorized vehicle within designated cutting areas to gather their fuelwood.
Background: On July 2004, the Forest Service published proposed travel management regulations in the Federal Register requiring each National Forest or Ranger District in the nation to designate roads, trails, and areas open to motor vehicles. The Gila National Forest began its analysis in 2006 and conducted numerous public meetings and open houses to solicit information from the public.
The forest will continue to provide information on the Travel Management decision via news releases, website, social media, and personal contacts. Forest managers are available to provide information and answer questions.