It seems like this should be obvious, but it apparently took a lawsuit to get the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to agree.
Thursday’s reversal by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest of its June decision to allow wheeled all-terrain vehicles (WATVs) on six Forest Service routes was met with mixed reviews by people on both sides of the motorized trail-use issue.
(The lawsuit) charged that opening the roads to WATVs not only violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) but was also premature, since the Okanogan-Wenatchee has yet to complete its long-overdue Travel Management Plan. The federally mandated plan is supposed to guide the use of off-road recreational vehicles on public lands.
Thursday’s Forest Service announcement said any decision to reopen those six roads to WATVs would be based on additional NEPA analysis, but didn’t reference the Travel Management process.
While the plaintiff’s primary concern may be the sequencing of travel planning and road management decisions, the NEPA concession could be at least as important. The Forest Service has generally tried to limit its analysis of road use effects to the travel planning process. The conclusion reached here could also be applied to roads and trails currently open to motorized vehicles that have never been through a NEPA process to consider their effects, or that have never been reviewed for effects on listed species under the Endangered Species Act.