SACRAMENTO, CA (July 31)-- The Eldorado National Forest is free from preservationist litigation attacking a Travel Management Plan that originally closed just over 900 miles of roads and trails. Today Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton issued his final order and judgment in a case originally filed in 2009.
The Court's May 2011 decision on the merits largely upheld the Eldorado travel management decision, denying preservationist demands for even more closures. Sadly, the court required further proceedings to address Endangered Species Act procedures concerning 42 routes that cross meadows. Today's order and final judgment, which terminates the case, determines that the Forest has fully complied with any Endangered Species Act concerns and adopts the Forest Service's proposed remedy over preservationist objections for continued travel along the meadow routes. According to the Forest Service, the meadow routes encompass a total of about 135 miles. Under today's order, access will be restored on about 46 miles of those routes, while about 89 miles will remain closed."
Pro-access recreation groups are disappointed with the order but glad to see the case concluded. Several key organizations participated in this suit and decades of litigation involving the Eldorado, including the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (Cal4), California Enduro Riders Association, District 36 of the American Motorcyclist Association and the BlueRibbon Coalition. Mark Cave, President of Cal4Wheel, observed, "We're concerned these closures are unnecessary and issued without legally required findings. But the "interim" status was complete closure of the 42 routes, so even this result is a step forward that allows some access." The Forest is completing renewed analysis and will issue a new decision on these routes.
Cave used the "David versus Goliath" analogy to describe how difficult it is to prevail against the well funded preservationist efforts. Still, none of the groups involved are willing to give up. "We encourage interested parties to stay in the loop, participate in the ongoing management process and help support whatever next steps the recreation groups decide to take." Cave added.
The case is entitled Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation v. U.S. Forest Service, Case No. CV-09-2523. A copy of the Court's order including a description of the 42 meadow routes may be viewed at http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/112-Order_on_remedy.07.31.12.pdf .