Conservation Groups Oppose Superior National Forest ORV Plan (1/4/10)

St. Paul, MN — Conservation groups asked the U.S. Forest Service to rewrite a road-use plan that endangers wild lands and wildlife in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest and beyond. The groups asked Regional Forester Kent Connaughton to amend the first Travel Management Plan for the Superior National Forest because proposed off-road vehicle (ORV) routes will affect threatened lynx and wolf populations and also damage the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

“The U.S. Forest Service has not done its duty to minimize harm to the environment from ORVs,” says Kevin Proescholdt, the Izaak Walton League of America’s Director of Wilderness and Public Lands Programs. “The agency continues to ignore the forest destruction resulting from hundreds of miles of user-created roads and still has no concrete plan to remedy the problem or increase resource allocation to appropriately monitor these roads and the roads built for Forest Service use.”

The conservation groups first protested the proposed Travel Management Plan in April 2009, citing noise pollution, harm to air and water quality, the spread of invasive species, damage to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and a failure to protect endangered and threatened species such as the Canada lynx and gray wolf.

Under the plan, 28 out of 30 Superior National Forest zones that house endangered Canada lynx populations will have open-road densities that violate U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) guidelines for managing lynx populations. In addition, the Superior National Forest is the last U.S. gray wolf stronghold in the lower 48 states. High open-road densities harm wolf populations by increasing human access to wolf habitat, resulting in higher wolf mortality.

Sharon Stephens of the Sierra Club also notes that the Forest Service’s proposed plan for Superior National Forest does not offer any indication of when those few roads not designated as open would be physically removed – or how such closures would be paid for. “It’s unfortunate the Superior National Forest didn’t have a plan in place to take advantage of stimulus funds to create jobs that would get these unnecessary and harmful roads off the landscape,” says Stephens.

More than 1,600 miles of roads and trails would remain open to off-road vehicles under this plan, affecting all of the more than 2.7 million forest acres in Superior National Forest.

The conservation groups opposing the Superior National Forest ORV plan are the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the BWCAW, Izaak Walton League of America, League of Women Voters Minnesota, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, and Sierra Club. The groups have asked Regional Forester Kent Connaughton to reduce the miles of roads and trails officially open to ORVs and to complete a comprehensive plan for the forest’s entire road system.

 
 
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