National Forests Close Roads
May 03, 2012

Courtesy of the US Forest Service
More people than ever are riding off-highway vehicles and motorbikes throughout the Southwest. At the same time National Forests must comply with federal rules to limit that traffic and close some roads. The Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona just closed a fifth of its drivable roads this week.

The purpose of the 2005 travel management rule is to get a handle on motorized vehicles on national forests, while preserving water quality, wildlife habitat and archaeological sites. The Coconino National Forest’s Mike Dechter says it’s his job to find a balance between recreation and protection.

"And often times those conflict each other so the answer isn’t as easy as just saying, ‘well the taxpayers want this so we’re going to do this’ because the taxpayers want different things," Dechter said. "And of course our mission tells us to serve people but also protect the forest resources."

During the planning process Dechter’s team received thousands of comments. For every comment to keep a road open, they received another to close it. About a quarter of national forests are still working on a final map.