Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sawtooth to ban motorized off-road travel

Forest overseers undertake revision of travel management plan

Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth National Forest is beginning a process that will determine how motorized travel is managed across the 1.8 million-acre Sawtooth National Forest. Photo by Willy Cook

The Sawtooth National Forest is eliminating motorized cross-country travel throughout the forest as a baseline starting point in its new travel management plan.

The agency announced the planning process during a press conference Thursday, Sept. 9, in Twin Falls. The process will effect change in the forest?s Ketchum, Fairfield and Minidoka ranger districts. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is managed under a separate plan.

?Basically, what we will be doing is eliminating cross country travel, which is authorized by our current travel plan, on these three districts,? said Forest Supervisor Ruth Monahan. ?Future motorized travel in these areas will be restricted to a system of designated roads, trails and areas, which we will develop with the help of the public.?

The purpose of revising the travel plan is to enhance recreation opportunities and protect natural resources, Monahan said. On the Ketchum Ranger District, public lands west of Highway 75 and south of Warm Springs Road are currently open to cross-country travel and will be affected by the new rule.

?We will accomplish this by working with the public to designate a system of roads, trails and areas for motorized vehicle use,? Monahan said. ?This action we are taking here is consistent with the agency?s effort to develop a nationally consistent approach to travel management on the national forests.?

Winter use will not be addressed in this planning process.

Monahan said 38 percent of the Sawtooth National Forest is open to cross-country travel, but the lion?s share of open terrain is on the Minidoka Ranger District south of Twin Falls.

?Right now, the entire SNRA, 75 percent of Ketchum (Ranger District), 50 percent of Fairfield and 20 percent of Minidoka have designated routes,? Monhan said.

She stressed that an important part of the process is the special effort the forest is putting in to work with organized users and interest groups, local governments and state agencies.

?Some groups have already been working with us to provide descriptions and trail logs of the trails they use,? Monahan said. ?We will be conducting a number of open houses in mid-September to provide an opportunity for people who do not belong to organized groups to provide input.

?In my mind, we?re really front loading this with the public, letting them build this pro0.posal with us. Often our trail users know as much about what?s happening on the ground as we do.?

Open houses scheduled

A series of open house events have been scheduled to provide people with information about the Sawtooth National Forest?s travel plan revision process. The schedule follows.

· Fairfield. Wednesday, Sept. 15 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fairfield Ranger District office.

· Malta. Wednesday, Sept. 15 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Malta Elementary School.

· Burley. Thursday, Sept. 16 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Burley High School.

· Twin Falls. Saturday, Sept. 18 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the KMVT-TV community room.

· Hailey. Monday, Sept. 20 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Old Blaine County Courthouse.

· Gooding. Monday, Sept. 27 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Gooding City Library.

To be the most helpful, written comments are requested by Oct. 31.

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