Motorized recreation at risk

Regarding your article (“1.35 million acres is potential wilderness,” June 16 PVT), I find it very disturbing to hear the biased remarks regarding motorized recreation that were spouted by Tom Baker, legislative liaison for the U.S. Forest Service.

“Cut new paths,” “jeeps come tearing through,” and “off-road vehicles go trampling.” Do these remarks sound like they should be coming from a supposedly unbiased neutral government employee that works for the Humboldt Toiyabe Forest Service who has been hired to manage this forest for multiple-use activities, of which one of those popular activities is motorized recreation?

Does he also not realize that not only is motorized recreation a popular and legitimate form of recreation on our public lands, but that also numerous handicapped and senior citizens use motorized or mechanical transport as their only means to enjoy their tax paid for public lands?

Mr. Baker also states that “If you look at the acreage that we said is capable of being wilderness, those areas have been closed to vehicle use for a number of years anyway … They have been considered roadless areas for some time.”

There is no law or forest service policy that requires roadless areas or Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs) to be closed to motorized recreation and treated as de-facto wilderness. Why have they been previously closed? Roadless areas are open for all forms of multiple-use activities in most national forests, as well as many other management classifications in this and other national forests. As for the RWAs, Forest Service Manual (FSM) 1923.03 describes how these areas should be managed. This policy states that, “Any potential wilderness area recommended for wilderness or wilderness study is not available for any use or activity that may reduce the area’s wilderness potential. Activities currently permitted may continue, pending designation, if the activities do not compromise wilderness values of the potential wilderness area.” Obviously continuing existing use in RWAs does not “reduce” the wilderness potential, if these areas could be recommended for wilderness in the first place in areas where motorized use is currently allowed.

“There has to be the demand for wilderness area out there.” I can agree with this statement. FSH 1909.12 requires the forest service “meet the tests of capability, availability, and need” when determining new areas for wilderness recommendation. Section 7.23 further states “Determine the need for an area to be designated as wilderness through an analysis of the degree to which it contributes to the local and national distribution of wilderness. There should be clear evidence of current or future public need for additional designated wilderness in the general area under consideration.”

According to the National Visitor Use Monitoring Study for this forest, which was conducted in the year 2000, only 1.1 percent of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest visitors spent time recreating in the current wilderness areas in this forest. So where is the need (“demand”)? Clearly there is no need for an additional 1.35 million acres of wilderness in this forest for the 1.1 percent of forest visitors that currently recreate in the existing wilderness areas in this forest.

I strongly encourage the motorized public to participate in this Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest Plan Revision that will determine how our public lands will be managed for the future, or they may just find a gate across their favorite trail when this plan is completed in October 2007.

Dave Hurwitz
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

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