This morning, Eldorado NF Supervisor Kathryn Hardy held a telephone conference with interested user groups, including the Nevada Four Wheel Drive Association, to reveal her decision on the 42 Trails Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).
These trails have been closed subsequent to a Federal court order that closed these trails that cross or are in close proximity to wet meadows. On May 26, 2111, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Lawrence Carlton found that the Eldorado NF failed to comply with the National Forest Management Act when it designated 42 existing wheeled motorized vehicle routes that cross portions of meadows with their 2008 Public Wheeled Motorized Travel Management Decision.
The order stated that the Forest Service failed to complete a required Riparian Conservation Objective analysis for standards and guidelines in its Land and Resource Management Plan pertaining to segments that cross wet meadows.
The Eldorado NF then developed its SDEIS which was released on February 19 day comment period.
These 42 trails include the Barrett Lake Trail, Deer Valley/Clover Valley trail, Mormon Emigrant/Long Valley Trail, Strawberry Pass trail, to name a few. These are the trails closest to the Reno/Carson City/Gardnerville areas and have some of the best Sierra Nevada 4 wheeling.
The SDEIS provided four alternatives for comment:
Alternative #1 (the Proposed Alternative): Open the closed trails and perform mitigation of the meadow issues later as time/money allows.
Alternative #2: These trails remain permanently closed.
Alternative #3 (the Preferred Alternative): Prioritize the problems and reopen the trails as these problems are mitigated.
Alternative #4: The trails remain closed until all problems on all trails are mitigated.
N4WDA submitted a comment letter supporting Alternative #1 as did virtually the entire off road community. The 45 day comment period closed on April 8th make a decision on which, if any, of the alternatives would be chosen.
Today’s telephone conference revealed that 24 of the 42 trails have been designated as open due to no problems with meadows or that the wet meadows were on private land, etc. This left 18 trails designated, but remaining closed. She stated that she had chosen Alternative #3, the Preferred Alternative, and that the closed trails have been prioritized and that the mitigation efforts will move forward as time and money allow. She did say that volunteer help had been offered and would be considered.
She estimated that these trails, or portions of trails, would remain closed this year. It is very likely that it will be several years before all of the remaining trails are reopened.
The Nevada Four Wheel Drive Association asks that all 4 wheel drive enthusiasts respect the decision of the Eldorado NF and comply with the closures. Maps are available at Forest Service Stations showing current closures and open 4 wheel drive and OHV opportunities.
Larry Calkins, President N4WDA