POCATELLO, Idaho (CN) – The Forest Service blew off a body of research on off-road vehicles, and the damage they do, to approve a travel management plan in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, the Idaho Conservation League claims in Federal Court.
Joined by The Wilderness Society, the League claims the Forest Service ignored a painstakingly gathered inventory of 40 roads and trails. With 980 photos, the survey used a systematic protocol involving Global Positioning System technology.
Off-road use threatens the National Forest by directly harming soils, harmful emissions, acting as a vector for invasive species, and through noise and safety impacts, the League says.
The groups say they tried every route of public involvement, including participating in the scoping and commenting process, and filing an administrative appeal. They sought to highlight special regions of concern, including proposed wilderness areas and 23 rivers and streams eligible for Wild and Scenic designation.
The lawsuit is necessary, plaintiffs say, because the travel plan never explained why it rejected less motor vehicle-friendly alternatives in favor of off-road routes through wild areas.
In addition, they say, the plan did not clarify its goal as establishing a “minimum road system,” did not address all environmental effects, failed to provide a cumulative analysis and did not consider mitigation measures.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest covers 4.3 million acres in east-central Idaho, including the 1.3 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, Borah Peak (Idaho’s tallest), and Wild and Scenic sections of the Salmon River.
Represented by Lauren Rule of Advocates for the West in Boise, the groups seek declaratory and injunctive relief against the record of decision for the Salmon-Challis National Forest travel management plan.