Travel Plan draws near
In order to comply with the US Forest Service off-road and trail policy, the Nezperce and Clearwater National Forests have been developing a Designated Routes and Areas of Motor Vehicle Use plan, also called the Forest Travel Plan. Idaho County Commissioner Jim Rehder is leading the coordination with county and US Forest Service (USFS) in the planning process.
A major shift in public lands use will occur with the new travel plan which will regulate forest off-road and trail travel. Historically, national forest roads were considered open unless posted as closed. The new USFS mandated policy will contain a change that will cause roads and trails to be closed unless posted as open. Motorized and non-motorized recreation roads and trails are popular on the multiple-use public lands. The key is finding reasonable and balanced solutions to the new travel plan. Public interest remains high in anticipation of the outcome of the final travel plans since alternatives were presented nearly two years ago.
Forest Service Supervisor Rick Brazel will sign the Record of Decisions after choosing one of the alternatives for each forest this fall. The Nezperce National Forest travel plan has new information and proposed designations to present, therefore, a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) will be scheduled for early October with an ensuing 45-day comment period. Comments made during this period on individual road or trail designations will be considered. The Clearwater National Forest made no changes in their travel plan, therefore, no SEIS will be offered.
A variety of user groups and individuals are engaged and tracking the status of the travel plan. The difficult part is the seemingly complicated and lengthy procedures to get to the final record of decision. Rehder commented, "Idaho Pathfinders Association, Back Country Horsemen, High Mountain Trail Machine Association and other user groups have provided very good, common sense feedback on the types of roads and trails to remain open to public travel in the national forest. The goal is to have a solid multiple-use travel plan. The County Commissioners are listening to constituents and working with the Forest Service for the best solution to the national travel planning directive." Once finalized, an effects analysis will be completed before a decision can be signed. The appeal period on the SEIS travel plan decision is 45days.