Forest Service ORV Plan Near Grand Canyon Halted

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Daniel Patterson (520) 906-2159; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Forest Service ORV Plan Near Grand Canyon Halted

'Lazy Hunter Rule' Allowing Perpetual ORV Access Dealt Setback With Ruling

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Following an appeal by the Center for Biological Diversity, Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and other
conservation groups, the Forest Service late Friday conceded to re-do
an off-road vehicle plan for lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National
Park. The Kaibab National Forest will reanalyze an off-road vehicle
plan that would have allowed nearly unfettered off-road vehicle access
that threatened archeological sites, watershed conditions, and wildlife
habitat and would have continued the spread of invasive species.

The plan would have enacted the "lazy hunter rule" allowing hunters
to drive ORVs one mile from any road to retrieve downed elk-leaving
virtually all lands open to off-road vehicle damage. In addition to
promoting questionable hunting ethics, the plan would have damaged the
habitat of sensitive species such as the northern goshawk, American
pronghorn, mountain lion, and black bear - species spanning both
National Forest and National Park lands.

"The Tusayan Ranger District's plan would have continued rather than
curbed damage resulting from off-road vehicle use," said Cyndi Tuell,
southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
"We're encouraged that the Forest Service agrees with our appeal, and
we look forward to a plan that makes public land and wildlife
protection the top priority."

Early in the planning process conservation groups proposed a plan
that offered habitat protection, quiet recreation, and a classic
hunting experience. The Tusayan Ranger District ignored that proposal.
On Friday, the Forest Service directed the Tusayan Ranger District to
withdraw its decision, to fully analyze the conservation alternative
and reanalyze the other plan alternatives using the best available
science.

The Travel Management Rule requires the Forest Service to ban
cross-country motorized travel to protect habitat for sensitive species
and watershed quality.

"This final decision failed to protect wildlife habitat and was not
based on the best available scientific information," said Kim Crumbo,
conservation director for the Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon Wildlands
Council. "After years of working with the Forest Service and a careful
review of the plan and the decision, we were disappointed at the
failure to protect forest resources. The appeal decision makes it clear
the District has to base their plan in reality."

"This is a statewide victory and a win for public lands overall,"
said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon
Chapter. "The Forest Service has made it clear that ranger districts
and forests must develop plans that protect natural resources and must
consider consistent, factual information over a desire to coddle the
off-road vehicle industry, which facilitates the rampant destruction of
public lands and resources."

"This fragile, arid forest has been slashed by too many off-road
vehicles, too many eroded tracks, and suffered too many bad decisions
from Forest Service managers, who pushed excess, not reasonable
access," said Daniel Patterson, an Ecologist and Southwest PEER
Director. "So-called motorized game retrieval is an unnecessary
loophole that harms the land and undercuts enforcement efforts to keep
ORVs on roads. We will continue to try to work with the Forest Service
toward a better plan." Patterson is also an Arizona State
Representative and Arizona hunter who hunts on the Kaibab National
Forest.

The conservation groups appealed the decision based on several
concerns, including failure to comply with the Travel Management Rule,
the National Environmental Policy Act, a failure to look at an
alternative that would offer resource protection, and a failure to
properly consider the impacts of this project to wildlife, air and
water quality, and how this project will impact the environment in
light of global climate change.

The appeal decision does not make clear whether the Tusayan Ranger
District will have to consider global warming and the "albedo effect"
in the next steps of the planning process. The albedo effect, which has
the potential to decrease critical water supplies in the already arid
west, is an increase in snow melt rates when dust from off-road
vehicles settles on snow pack. Dust can also have health impacts to
people hiking, hunting, backpacking, or wildlife viewing in the area.

"We tried to work with the Tusayan Ranger District to develop a good
plan that would protect natural resources, but we were ignored. We
couldn't support a plan that didn't comply with the law, and the Forest
Service has agreed with us," said Tuell.

 

Read the Forest Service appeal decision

Look at the successful appeal by the conservation groups

View Arizona Game and Fish Department study finding ORVs disturb hunters

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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