Enviros Fight Off-Roading Near Yosemite

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – The U.S. Forest Service plans to institute a system of unauthorized, user-created off-roading routes in a National Forest that is the gateway to Yosemite National Park, environmentalists claim in Federal Court. The Stanislaus National Forest encompasses almost 900,000 acres between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.

     The Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center and two national environmental groups say the Forest Service failed to consider impacts and alternatives to a travel plan for the Stanislaus National Forest, near the Bay Area and Sacramento, which the environmentalists call one of the most popular National Forest destinations in California.
     Most visitors visit the forest to “quietly enjoy nature,” the groups say, which makes the addition of 137 miles of unauthorized roads and the reopening of 67 miles of closed roads particularly inappropriate.
     Motorized off-highway vehicles cause erosion, stream sedimentation and disturb sensitive areas, the groups say. The vehicles cause particular harm to sensitive habitat for rare or endangered species, such as the Pacific fisher, imperiled amphibians and a diversity of plants.
     The Forest Service failed to consider comments on the new travel plan, including suggestions for alternative plans, the environmentalists say. It also failed to properly analyze effects of the plan, and ignored an executive imperative to minimize harm from off-roading.
     Also signing on as plaintiffs are The Wilderness Society and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Represented by Erin Tobin of Earthjustice in Oakland, the plaintiffs say the Forest Service plan violates numerous environmental laws.
     California’s Lake Tahoe is directly north of the Stanislaus National Forest, and Yosemite National Park lies south and east. Rivers, mountains and other forests bound the Stanislaus to the north, east and south.

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