Off-Road Limits Proposed

May 5, 2009 11:48:39 PM PDT
There are more than 25 hundred miles of roads and trails winding through the Sierra National Forest. Some are logging and fire roads, but others were made by folks simply driving through the woods.Forest Service spokesperson Sue Exline says the agency is trying to find a way to regulate the traffic. "As managers of our public lands we have to find a balance, between the environment and providing off highway vehicle opportunities" Exline said.

The first of six meetings to outline the plan was presented in Oakhurst Monday night. Most in the audience, like Mike Wubbles, opposed the controls. "This is about access to the forest. This is about families being able to have access to the forest to get to the destinations that historically for the past fifty, sixty, eighty, one hundred years been open." Wubbles said.

While most at the meeting were concerned about a lack of access to the back country, Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler fears restrictions on off-roading will hurt local businesses that depend on tourists, hunters and fishermen and off road enthusiasts.

"What bothers me the most is what economic impact it will be on our tourism and recreation for Madera County." Wheeler said.

The big issue is the damage caused by vehicles. The only way to mitigate the damage is to create an authorized road system.

"There may be hundreds of miles of trails that people may not see brought into the system because there's environmental issues with them." Exline said.

The Forest Service will be taking public input on this plan until the middle of June. A final decision is expected in the fall. The next public meeting will be held at Madera Community College on Wednesday night.

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