Bi-State-Sage-Grouse-Decision-Off-Road-6-1-16BOISE, ID — Sharetrails.org/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), a national trail-based recreation group, recently slammed the decisions that would severely restrict off-highway vehicle (OHV) events and trail improvements in many areas in eastern California and Nevada.  The changes, in the name of sage grouse management, were demanded by a handful of preservationist special interest groups.

Some of the many historic OHV routes in the Pine Nut Mountains BRC’s concerns focus on final decisions announced late last week related to the Greater Sage-grouse Bi-State Distinct Population Segment (DPS), involving public lands in Nevada and eastern California.  The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Plan amendment includes approximately 426,809 acres of bi-state DPS habitat managed by the Forest Service.  The BLM’s Nevada California Greater Sage-Grouse Bi-State Distinct Population Segment Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA)/Record of Decision (ROD) includes about 280,000 acres of public land located in Douglas, Esmeralda, Lyon, and Mineral counties in Nevada and Alpine and Mono Counties in California.

The new plans prohibit OHV events in the Greater Sage-grouse area between March 1 and June 30 that pass within 4 miles of an active or pending breeding ground, known as a “lek.” The documents also prohibit motorized events within winter habitats from November 1 to March 1 and ban new recreation facilities in DPS habitat, which might include features like campgrounds and scenic pullouts.

These new restrictions mimic those demanded by preservation interests, apparently instituted by the federal agencies under the guise of their “objection resolution” process.  BRC earlier announced willingness to accept the Forest Service’s initial decision, but as modified following “objection resolution” the lek buffer distance/acreage has now nearly doubled from 3 miles to 4 miles, a 10 a.m. event restriction amended to an all-day closure, and the seasonal restriction expanded by 45 days to include the time from May 15 to June 30.

Don Amador, BRC’s Western Representative, stated, “I think these new restrictions are unwarranted and were never day-lighted during the public process.  OHV recreation has been identified as nothing more than a secondary threat to the DPS, but is an important land-use activity in the West.  We are concerned these closures are nothing more than parting gifts issued to various special interests during the Administration’s final year, and we have little choice but to challenge them.”

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