Forest Service affirms Idaho motorized-use trail closures

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:33 PM

Eric Barker

LEWISTON, Idaho -- The Clearwater National Forest travel plan appealed by both ends of the motorized-use spectrum was affirmed by the Forest Service on Monday.

Jane Cottrell, deputy regional forester at Missoula, Mont., and a former supervisor of the Nez Perce National Forest said the plan that closes about 200 miles of trails and 1 million acres to motorized travel followed agency rules and regulations.

"I find the forest supervisor has made a reasoned decision and has complied with all applicable laws, regulations and policy, and is consistent with the overall mission of the Forest Service," she said.

Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said the plan will protect elk habitat and provide a wide variety of trails for forest visitors. Even though the plan bans motorcycles from some trails, he said the forest will allow motorized travel on 1,388 miles of trails in Idaho County alone.

"I think it's a positive thing for elk habitat," he said. "There is still ample opportunity for folks to go ride motorcycles and four-wheelers. We didn't cut back that much."

The plan, which forbids cross-country travel and closes several long, single-track trails to motorcycle riders, was appealed by 26 groups and individuals. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and Idaho and Clearwater county commissions appealed, saying the Forest Service closed too many trails to motorized travel. The Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater appealed from the opposite direction and said the plan allowed too much motorized use in backcountry areas. Both sides are considering filing lawsuits to stop implementation of the plan.

"In my opinion we are getting to the point where we just can't take anymore," said Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt. "Whether it's locking out the locals from motorized access or locking us out of jobs, we are getting backed into a corner. The end result is we have to take our local forest back out of federal control somehow."

Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director of the Friends of the Clearwater said his group will go to court barring an objection from the groups attorneys.

"Unless they tell us we don't have a case, I think we are probably going to end up in court on it," he said. "I believe the Forest Service erred and violated executive orders by leaving so much of the backcountry open to motor vehicles."

Barker may be contacted at or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter ezebarker.


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