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matt@expaz

MVUMs and other upcoming road closure issues

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This weekend I began to gather information and collect resources on Motor Vehicle Use Maps (which the Forest Service is going to and you will be required to have in your possession) to see what roads have been closed or are proposed for closure. The number of roads slated for closure is staggering. Not sure if there is any time to do anything about it, but here's some links to information and maps showing road closures:

 

Click here for a link to MVUMs (or what they are proposing)

 

Click here for a more detailed look at what's happening to the Coronado National Forest (my backyard). I will try to find detailed information on other forests soon. You can go to each district and download .pdf maps to see what roads they are proposing to close (FYI, there are LOTS).

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Tonto National Forest (our backyard) has not completed their travel management plan, and thus does not have MVUMs available yet. And, according to them, no numbered trails are closed at this time. Just FYI.

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Looks like a good read! :)

Federal Register (Vol. 70, No. 216–Nov. 9, 2005, pages 68264 through 68291)

 

Henceforth, whereas, "That is incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial Mr. Mason."

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Tonto National Forest (our backyard) has not completed their travel management plan, and thus does not have MVUMs available yet. And, according to them, no numbered trails are closed at this time. Just FYI.

 

I'll never get off the soap box about these MVUMs. The Preskitt National Forest took a 1990's map and said "this is it!." Even before the MVUM reared its ugly head, Mike King (then the Manager of the Prescott) told me that any road or trail NOT signed was considered closed. That is a complete switch from the way it used to be: Any road or trail was considered open unless marked closed.

 

The Prescott is notorious about NOT marking their roads and trails. They should take a cue from the BLM; out on the Agua Fria Monument and over by Wickenburg they have EVERYTHING signed!!! What a difference! Even little washes have route numbers on them! The key would be getting a map to show where they all go. I was wayyy out on Perry Mesa (not the attorney!) last summer and in the middle of nowhere the BLM has all their roads marked!

 

Also, the Prescott MVUM is very inaccurate. They have trails designated for quads (50" or less) that are totally impassable by rigs that large! Also, the Prescott doesn't mark any trails at all!

 

Plus even though the MVUM says 50" or less for quads, they DO NOT consider side-by-sides as quads but rather full size vehicles!!!

 

Go figure that one out!

 

The Tonto is more user friendly at present. I'm glad I am volunteering there instead of the PNF. The PNF was always hostile anything to do with roads. The Tonto has ben very positive to my work.

 

What I would really like to know is HOW they actually decide to close a road???

 

The Conconino just closed a bunch based on route redundancy! What a joke! So it's not allowable to have more than road going to the same place?????

 

And I'll bet my gold plated cuspidor that ALL of the NFs completely ignore the implications of RS 2477 on closing roads that predate the establishment of the National Forest Network!

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Yep, the Coconino, Prescott and Kaibab National Forests are the only ones that I know that have completed a MVUM. All the others are in the planning stages. But you can still see the maps they are proposing to be used.

 

It also appears that the FS is using a slight of hand for what they are saying (at least that's the way I read it). I believe it was on the Coronado National Forest website they said that they don't consider any previous decisions (they don't elaborate on which ones these were) are not considered part of this plan or the new MVUM. One of the districts state they they are only closing 3.1 miles of roads and are opening 22 miles of new roads. When I looked at the map, I saw red closed roads everywhere. It seems like they are claiming all of these roads were previously considered closed by other decisions and they don't have to claim them as being closed by the new MVUM. Again, I don't have all the facts, but this seems underhanded. They close roads before they make the plan "official", then they don't have to claim they are closing the roads as part of this plan. If you just read the bullets they post on the main pages, they make it sound like we are getting a plus up. This is on my list of things I want to try to get answers on in the next few months. Now, to be honest. When I took a look at the maps, it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating. It's still not pretty, but I was expecting much worse.

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Here's another sleight of hand trick. The PNF LOVES this one. I have their official maps going back to the 1980s and with every new publication, more and more roads disappeared. Now it's a given they don't maintain signage and they don't even know where half the stuff in the Forest is

 

SO:

 

Did these roads just "go away"

 

OR

 

Were they closed through the proper procedure which I thought entailed soliciting public input prior to closure. I **thought** (there goes my headache again) the proper way for that was to print a notice in the newspaper. Which of course, could be ANY newspaper in the range of the Forest. Like maybe "The Bumblebee News Tribune." Which means no one would read it. Which means "Okay to close!"

 

I was told by a FS person that whenever a road gets blown out by rain/storm/fire damage, "We can't afford to go out and fix it!" He then when on to chortle with glee that the area would then become roadless and "green."

 

Hey I am "green" too but not that green! What good are public lands with no roads. I have hiked my 38.5 pound body all over the Bradshaws but it sure is nice to settle into my vehicle and make the trip that way!!!

 

I'll give anyone a free six pack of the beverage of their choice if they ever spot the Prescott's "Road Division" with their one grader or one dozer venturing more than three miles from Prescott.

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I am going to go out on a limb here and say if they close roads I have been traveling my entire life, they can kiss my ***. They don't have the man power to cover every road. I always leave the areas I go to cleaner than when I get there, i.e. I pick-up other peoples trash. I will continue to enjoy the areas I go to and explore new areas regardless of what "they" say. I believe in protecting our wilderness areas, but telling me I can't drive down an established trail because they say so? Not going to happen.

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I hear your anger but am at a loss about how to combat it. The decision to close roads and limit access comes from the top down which explains why it is found in all forests. Also, a lot of old-timers have retired, leaving a new crop of "youngsters" in charge. No disrespect but this new crop of forest administrators has a completely different attitude about the public's use of OUR lands.

 

You are correct about the manpower to enforce road closures. The Tonto and Prescott each have one LEO. Hardly adequate to cover the massive areas covered by each forest. What are they going to do? Rely on rangers whose enforcement powers are limited or civilian law enforcement? I don't even know if the latter has proper jurisdiction on federal lands.

 

Someone posted an excellent you tube video on this site about the rush by the FS to close down access. I wish I could find it to report; will look if I have the time.

 

I don't think the FS road closures would stand up in court but pursuing that venue would be a massive undertaking. That leaves civil disobedience and trying to reason with bureaucrats as the only options. Good luck there.

 

The biggest problem is that the offroad community has no unified representation. By comparison, the NRA only has about 3 million members yet every time they pass gas people sit up and listen. Where is OUR version of the NRA?

 

It's only going to get worse as time goes on. The FS claims roads have to be closed because the overuse of public lands is causing irreparable harm to the environment. That is true in some locations but hardly a justification for blanket closures or eliminations of routes because of redundancy. I can think of many remote places where few visit and the environment has not been damaged yet roads have been closed.

 

The FS long ago turned its back on maintaining any roads in its network. What nature is taking too long to do the FS hopes to accomplish by decree. Maybe if the FS didn't have to spend half of its budget on fire "management" (not "fire fighting"), again due to poor FS management, then they would have more $$ to commit to road and trail upkeep.

 

By the way,

 

in FS language a ROAD is open to ALL motorized vehicles.

TRAILS are different animals, being limited to a max of 50" wide (quads) or lesser designations for dirt bikes and then another classification for non-motorized (equestrian, pedestrian) traffic only.

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Okay here it is. This video says it all and should viral for anyone who spends 1 minute of their life offroad!

 

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Wow. What a great video. Get's your heart pumping, doesn't it?

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