Ryan Gallagher

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July 17, 2012
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Lawsuit filed over closure of Tahoe National Forest trails

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — Several Northern California off-road organizations took legal action Tuesday against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, due to the closure of more than 800 miles of trails in the Tahoe National Forest.

According to Sacramento attorney Brandon Middleton, the Forest Service illegally implemented its 2005 Travel Management Rule. This “open and transparent” rule is meant to designate what areas of the Tahoe National Forest are open to off-road vehicles, according to the Forest Service website.

The plaintiffs in the suit had filed an appeal against the Forest Service only to later have it rejected. The Pacific Legal Foundation, represented by Middleton, has joined the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the alleged illegal actions.

The Forest Service closed off hundreds of miles of roads which had been open to off-road enthusiasts since the mid ‘60s, said Jacquelyne Theisen, a member of Friends of Greenhorn.

Friends of Greenhorn, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, is a group of more than 150 off-roaders who clean up trash and clear fire roads at Greenhorn Creek, the complaint states.

The organization, which also educates riders on responsible off-road usage, routinely maintains hundreds of miles of roads subject to debris that create obstacles for firefighters who use the road to engage forest fires, Theisen said.

“We have a great relationship with the Forest Service that we don't want to jeopardize,” Theisen said. “This isn't about us versus (Forest Service employees), it's the little guys versus the government.”

Nevada County Woods Riders, another plaintiff group, is comprised of motorcycle enthusiasts who enjoy trail rides at the Tahoe National Forest and has more than 60 members residing in Nevada County and surrounding areas.

Many of its members built and have maintained existing single-track trails that are not part of the National Forest Transportation System, the complaint states.

The plaintiffs seek to have the court “declare that the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the Tahoe National Forest Motorized Travel Management Project are insufficient as a matter of law, and order Defendants to undertake a new implementation of the 2005 Travel Management,” according to the complaint.

“We want the Forest Service to re-evaluate the travel management process and give the recreational riders a fair shot at designating the areas open to motor vehicles,” said Middleton.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 17, 2012 07:55PM Published Jul 17, 2012 07:55PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.