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Another Million Acres Of National Forest Gone

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Forest Service approves plan for Clearwater National Forest

By The Associated Press

LEWISTON -- The U.S. Forest Service has signed off on a new travel plan for the Clearwater National Forest that shuts down trails to motorized vehicles and has drawn criticism from recreation and conservation groups alike.

The new plan was affirmed after administrative appeals week by Jane Cottrell, deputy regional forester in Missoula, Mont., and a former supervisor of the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho.

The plan, which closes about 200 miles of trails and about 1 million acres to motorized travel across the forest, follows existing rules and regulations and adheres to the agency's mission, Cottrell said.

Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said the new blueprint for managing travel access will protect elk habitat yet still provide a wide variety of trails for forest visitors.

Even though the plan bans motorcycles from some trails, the forest will allow motorized travel on 1,388 miles of trails in Idaho County alone, he said.

"I think it's a positive thing for elk habitat," Brazell told the Lewiston Tribune in a story published Tuesday. "There is still ample opportunity for folks to go ride motorcycles and four-wheelers. We didn't cut back that much."

The plan was appealed by 26 groups and individuals irritated with various aspects of the plan, which forbids cross-country travel and closes several long, single-track trails to motorcycle riders.

It also was challenged by conservation groups claiming it still gave too much access to motorized travel including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

Both sides are considering filing lawsuits to prevent the forest from implementing the new plan.

"In my opinion, we are getting to the point where we just can't take anymore," said Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt. "Whether it's locking out the locals from motorized access or locking us out of jobs, we are getting backed into a corner. The end result is we have to take our local forest back out of federal control somehow."

Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director of the Friends of the Clearwater, said his group will go to court barring an objection from the group's attorneys.

"Unless they tell us we don't have a case, I think we are probably going to end up in court on it," he said. "I believe the Forest Service erred and violated executive orders by leaving so much of the backcountry open to motor vehicles."

Read more here: http://www.tri-cityh...l#storylink=cpy

From http://www.tri-cityh...s-plan-for.html

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