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2008 Roadless and Route Designation Process Update

I've decided to give you a start here with all this roadless stuff and route designation, but also send you to other sites that are keeping things more current for your state/area. Read through this info for a starter.

Then click on a few of the highlighted sites for the latest and greatest. Then email me if you are still lost in figuring out what to do. Del

If you're looking for help with Route Designation in CA, please also check out the BlueRibbon Coalition and High Lakes web sites

NOTE: Jan. 2008, BlueRibbon won a huge appeal on the Six Rivers National Forest regarding roads/trails in Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA's), reversing a decision to close about 14 miles of roads that we use.

Read the press release here as well as the decision win!

Roads, trails, routes, tracks, and traces are common terms around the country to describe those "things" we like to wheel/sled/ride on. There is a lot of confusion over terms used by the USFS, BLM and other federal agencies on terms and definitions. With the help of attorney Paul Turcke (BlueRibbon Coalition legal counsel), I offer this clarification to help you sort things out. More here.

Definitions Navigation Table
Eldorado NF Lawsuit (Rubicon & Rock Creek)

The "OHV Rule"- this is a formal rule, finalized on November 9, 2005, by which the USDA Forest Service (USFS) will designate "roads, trails and areas" for vehicle travel.  The final product of such a process will be a "vehicle use map."  The Rule does not specify how the designation process will occur, nor any specific time frames in which it must be completed.  This is officially called the USDA Forest Service Travel Management Rule. You can use the term OHV Rule to describe this and you'll be ok.

As a general principle, the "OHV Rule" leaves broad discretion for local managers to design procedures/route systems to meet the needs of their specific forests and interested publics.  Critical discretionary elements under the Rule include the ability (but not requirement) that local managers consider "user input" in determining whether to authorize travel on "user created" or "unauthorized routes and whether "limited off-route travel" will be allowed in conjunction with camping, big game retrieval or similar activities. 

It is essential that grass roots and local interests be active in all phases of the route designation process on any forests in which they participate in or value OHV recreation. This Rule started the Route Inventory and Designation process (RID).

Your Job: Meet with your local government agency -- the OHV person -- and ask them how you can help get YOUR trail on their maps.

Back to the Navigation Table

Roads, Trails: Definitions: You can read page upon page of agency webistes and documents about the definitions of roads, routes, trails, traces and tracks. In general, "roads" are defined by the USFS as a motor vehicle route over 50 inches wide. A "trail" is a route less than or equal to 50 inches wide, or a route over 50 inches if specifically managed as a "trail." Roads are then classified in levels, 1 thru 5 (from SUV to car to paved).

More definitions on roads:

Road - A motor vehicle travelway over 50 inches wide, unless designated and managed as a trail. A road may be classified, unclassified, or temporary (36 CFR 212.1).
a. Classified Roads Roads wholly or partially within or adjacent to national forest system lands that are determined to be needed for long-term motor vehicle access, including State roads, county roads, privately owned roads, national forest system roads, and other roads authorized by the Forest Service (36 CFR 212.1).

b. Temporary Roads: Roads authorized by contract, permit, lease, other written authorization, or emergency operation not intended to be a part of the forest transportation system and not necessary for long-term resource management (36 CFR 212.1).

c. Unclassified Roads: Roads on national forest system lands that are not managed as part of the forest transportation system, such as unplanned roads, abandoned travelways, and off-road vehicle tracks that have not been designated and managed as a trail; and those roads that were once under permit or other authorization and were not decommissioned upon the termination of the authorization (36 CFR 212.1).

A route is not an official USFS or BLM classification, but more of a generalized term for any access method. Recommended Standardized Trail Terminology for Use in Colorado (with BLM and Colorado Sate Parks). Route: A traveled way, a means of access, a line of travel, an established or selected course of travel.

The Route Inventory and Designation ("RID") process- this refers to the USFS Region 5 designation "template" and manual, which we've also seen referred to as "R5 Pyramid."  This process is related to, but should not contradict, the OHV Rule process. 

BRC successfully obtained a "revision" of portions of the RID manual which arguably contradicted the ultimate direction of the OHV Rule and applicable law.  RID parallels the OHV Rule - ie individual forests in R5 must arguably comply with both sets of guidelines, with RID potentially imposing additional (but not contradictory) guidance vis-a-vis the OHV Rule.  Contrary to the OHV Rule, RID does include a general timetable for various steps within the designation process.

Note: Route Designation also applies to the BLM and their inventory and designation of existing roads, trails and riding areas.  It is only through local user involvement that this process won't go awry and RID us of our trails. We must be in the game.

Your Job: Meet with your local government agency -- the OHV person -- and ask them what you need to do to get your club involved and who to get YOUR trail on their maps. Get going now!

Back to the Navigation Table

USDA Forest Service "Travel Management" rule - this is essentially the same thing as the "OHV Rule."  Some folks have noted that designation of roads, trails, and areas might affect management of those route systems for non-OHV uses, and are advocating a broader descriptive label, ie "travel management rule." The term "travel management" is the umbrella that includes OHV management as a subset. Travel management covers all forest roads and trails (Level 1-5). The OHV rule applies to Level 1 and 2 forest roads and trails. (And in some cases, Level 3 where it is not in conflict with state or county ordinance or public safety).

Your Job: Find out what your local federal land managers are calling this process and everything related to OHV management of roads and trails. Get their maps and study them. Make sure your trails are included.

Back to the Navigation Table

Eldorado Lawsuit (Court order) - to condense this very long history, the Eldorado NF of California is conducting road/trail designation under court mandate in addition to the above-described processes.  Pursuant to the lawsuit, an "interim" route system is in place, which includes ONLY "system" trails identified by the USFS. 

The BlueRibbon Coalition has led the charge and combined forces with the Calif. Assoc. of 4WD Clubs and other groups to intervene and fight for our rights in this court battle.

In completing long range planning, under the Court order, RID, or OHV Rule, the Court Order DOES NOT direct or limit the Eldorado from considering all reasonable alternatives - ie there is nothing in the Court Order or other law/regulation that allows the Eldorado to disregard user input, to limit analysis to "system" routes or to the "interim" network. 

History suggests the Eldorado plan, regardless of its final form, will be challenged in court. 

Your Job: OHV interests need carefully monitor and be active in the planning process - BRC's Legal Teamwants to be advised of any questionable activities by the USFS along the lines of those suggested in this update or otherwise.

Back to the Navigation Table

Roadless Rule:

NOTE: This battle has been raging since 2001 with groups like the BlueRibbon Coalition leading the charge to help settle the myriad of issues surrounding the Roadless Rule (and Inventoried Roadless Areas). This is a complex issue that requires legal staff involvement to fully understand and manage from our OHV perspective. BlueRibbon is doing that for us, and helping other groups to get a handle on what this means.

Read the BRC press release here as well as the decision win!

The Clinton/Gore Roadless Rule was hammered out in an unprecedented quick time frame and finalized in the waning days of the Clinton Administration.  Under the "Clinton Rule," new road construction was prohibited in "roadless areas" and maintenance of existing and popular routes would have been prohibited if those routes had not been formally designated by the Forest Service. 

The Clinton Rule was successfully challenged in several courts, including in actions by recreational access advocates like BlueRibbon , Idaho State Snowmobile Ass'n and American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA). 

While an appeal from one of those decisions was pending, the Bush Administration revoked the Clinton Rule and replaced it with a new "state petition" Roadless Rule. 

Under the Bush (Roadless) Rule, individual governors can petition the Forest Service to adopt rules of their creation that will govern Forest Service management of "roadless areas" in their state. 

As of July 2006, the "Bush Rule" is under challenge by numerous anti-access supporters of the Clinton Rule, as well as the States of California , New Mexico , Oregon and Washington

A few other states, including Montana , have filed in support of that action.  All of these cases seek to have the Bush Rule declared unlawful and have the Clinton Rule reinstated.  BlueRibbon, Cal4, ACSA and UFWDA have intervened as parties in support of the Bush Rule, and the State of Wyoming has filed "friend of the court" support for the Bush Rule. 

The challenges will be heard in court on August 1, 2006 .  In the meantime, many governors are preparing or have already filed their state petitions, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.


A final note regarding all of these processes - local decision makers have the discretion to authorize, restrict, or prohibit uses within their jurisdiction as they believe appropriate/defensible within the applicable law, regulations, resource conditions and needs of the public.  In other words, nothing in any of the guiding law will mandate the opening, or closure, of "spur road 516B" or of any particular route or system of routes. 

Final decisions will, as they always do, reflect a complex and site-specific blend of physical resource needs, technical input from biologists and other "ologists," socioeconomic needs and history of the community, politics/public relations, and the effectiveness of participating special interests. 

There is no "one size fits all" approach to identify, other than to note the critical importance of being active in the administrative process.  Effective advocacy and numbers do count, and USFS decision makers are not going to defend the rights of those who fail to participate.

All federal agencies are doing the inventory and designation process to see what trails are real and what trails need to be gated. If your trail does not end up on a map (designated), it will get closed.

Your Job: Get in the game. Get your club and friends in the game. Do it now. It's up to all of us.

Back to the Navigation Table

Read the BlueRibbon letter to the USFS regarding this process

Read the USFS Response to BlueRibbon's letter

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