Destructive Superior National Forest ORV Plan Challenged in Court

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Matt Norton, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), (651) 223-5969
Brad Sagen, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, (218) 365-6461
Sharon Stephens, Sierra Club, (952) (465-2118)

Conservation Groups

Destructive Superior National Forest ORV Plan Challenged in Court

DULUTH, Minn. - Conservation groups filed a formal appeal today of a federal plan
that fails to protect wild lands in Minnesota's Superior National
Forest from damage from off-road vehicles. The groups are asking
Regional Forester Kent Connaughton to reverse the Superior National
Forest decision due to concerns about how the proposed off-road vehicle
plan will affect threatened lynx, wolf, and the Boundary Waters Canoe
Area Wilderness.
  "The Forest Service
continues to fail in its duty to minimize harm to the environment from
ORVs. It continues to ignore the impacts of hundreds of miles of
illegal roads and has no concrete plan to remedy the problem," said
Cyndi Tuell, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological
Diversity. "Increasing the number of miles of roads in lynx habitat
violates the Forest Plan and will put the species at increased risk."

Under this plan, all but two of the 30 areas of lynx habitat will
continue to have open-road densities that are in violation of the law.
Sharon Stephens, of the Sierra Club, noted that the current plan for
those two areas doesn't give any indication of when those few roads not
designated as open would be physically removed, or how such closures
would be paid for. "It's unfortunate the Superior National Forest
didn't have a plan in place to take advantage of stimulus funds to
create jobs that would actually get these unnecessary and harmful roads
off the landscape," said Stephens.

In April 2009,
the groups appealed the Forest Service's first decision to allow
motorized travel on more than 1,600 miles of roads and trails in the
Superior National Forest because of harm to air and water quality,
noise pollution, the spread of invasive species, potential impacts on
Boundary Waters, and a failure to protect endangered and threatened
species such as Canada lynx
and gray wolf. While that appeal was granted in March, when the Forest
Service was directed to analyze the impacts to air quality in the
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, "The Forest Service has made no
substantive changes to its original decision, thus leaving the Boundary
Waters vulnerable to continued impacts from off-road vehicles," said
Brad Sagen, chair of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness.

More than 1,600 miles of roads and trails would remain open to off-road
vehicles under this plan, affecting more than 2.7 million acres of
forest.

This decision is the Superior National Forest's attempt to implement a 2005 regulation
that requires forests to determine which roads they need, how many they
can afford, and which roads should be closed because they are too
costly or causing too much damage. Most forests cannot afford to
properly maintain their current road systems, and implementation of
this requirement is seen by many as an ideal opportunity to bring the
overgrown and unmanageable road networks under control.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

The groups that filed the appeal are the Center for Biological
Diversity, Friends of the BWCAW, Izaak Walton League, League of Women
Voters Minnesota, MCEA, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, and
Sierra Club.

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