Officials from the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands today released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Public Motor Vehicle Use. The Notice of Availability will publish in the Federal Register on September 20, 2019, initiating the formal 45-day public comment period that ends Nov. 4, 2019.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is part of the 2005 Travel Management Rule, requiring National Forests and Grasslands to designate roads, trails and areas that are open for motorized use. It offers five alternatives for a system of designated roads, trails and areas by class of vehicle and season of use. The alternatives reflect input from forest users, partners, and state and local governments.
“Feedback on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will help strengthen our analysis,” said Forest and Grassland Supervisor Diana Trujillo. “Hearing the voices of various forest users is extremely important to us. Our goal is to designate a motorized system that works for the public while caring for natural and cultural resources.”
The alternatives address a range of concerns about resource impacts from motor vehicle use, reduced motorized access, and potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. The five alternatives are summarized below.
• Alternative A, Public Motorized Routes Prior to Settlement, is the forest’s public motorized route system prior to the November 2015 settlement agreement.
• Alternative B, Settlement Action Proposal, removes all roads and trails not previously analyzed as identified in the November 2015 settlement agreement. Alternative B reduces the Pike and San Isabel National Forest’s motorized network by 34 percent.
• Alternative C, Proposed Action, emphasizes a safe and environmentally sound system of roads, trails and areas that allows for existing forest uses and access to private property. It decreases roads open to motor vehicle use by just under 11 percent and increases trails open by almost 22 percent. The 4 percent overall reduction in roads and trails specified under the proposed action aims to reasonably address and balance the expressed concerns of motorized users, non-motorized users and environmental groups.
• Alternative D, Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal, emphasizes public motor vehicle use and recreation. This alternative combines parts of Alternative C with motorized routes proposed during public scoping. It proposes new motorized areas. Alternative D decreases motorized access by about 3 percent overall.
• Alternative E, Non-Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal, emphasizes natural resource protection, habitat quality and non-motorized recreation while providing the least amount of public motor vehicle access across the forest. Alternative E decreases motorized access by just over 50 percent overall.
The Travel Management Rule exempts the following from designation: aircraft, watercraft, and over-snow vehicles; use by the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and Forest Service for administrative activities; permitted special uses, such as livestock grazing, mining, logging, and collecting fuelwood, Christmas trees and other forest products; and access to pipeline and utility corridors, as well as access to private land.
Written comments must be submitted in person, through the online comment portal, or mailed to John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner, Travel Management, 2840 Kachina Drive, Pueblo, CO, 81008.
Comments, including the names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the public record. Anonymous comments will be accepted and considered, but those submitting comments anonymously will not have standing to object to the final decision. Only those who commented during this process will be eligible to object the final decision. Comments should be clear and specific to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and must be submitted by Nov. 4.
After considering the comments submitted, Forest Service officials will prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement and designate a system of roads, trails and areas open for motor vehicle use by class of vehicle and season of use. The decision is expected to publish in the Federal Register in November of 2020.
Six new motor vehicle use maps will be published for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. These new maps will complement the two that already exist for the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. All will be available free of charge.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48214 under the “Analysis” tab.