Why the Forest Service is doing what they are doing

Believe it or not, some in Congress are really trying to reduce the cost of government. At least they were when this rule was written in 2005.

Congress has given the US Forest Service the task to reduce the costs of its operations. One way the Forest Service is accomplishing this is by closing as many Forest Roads as possible. More road miles equals more maintenance costs. Some of the guidelines under which they must do this are found in the 2005 Travel Management Rule 36 CFR 212.

The Huron-Manistee National Forest managers have begun that process. The notification to the public can be found here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/hmnf/n...STELPRD3823719

According to 36 CFR 112.5(b) : “For each national forest, national grassland, experimental forest, and any other units of the National Forest System (§212.1), the responsible official must identify the minimum road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for administration, utilization, and protection of National Forest System lands.”

Here’s where you come in. We must convince the Forest Service that not only do we want no more Trails closed to motor vehicles, we want what they classify as ‘Unauthorized roads or trails’ opened back up to motor vehicles. These are two tracks they either closed because they had no use for them for managing the timber plantations or because of excessive damage being caused to wetlands or streams by erosion from people leaving the trail itself. Sometimes, they were closed because it costs the FS money to keep them open.

We concede that there are places where vehicular use can cause damage to streams from erosion or wetlands from direct vehicle contact. That road can be rerouted or rebuilt in a way to eliminate the damage. Actual road closure can make sense in rare instances. But most of the closures occurred merely to save money for the budget and because not enough people complained about the closure.

Believe me, if the Forest Service gets thousands of emails, letters, or phone calls stating that people want the Two Tracks left alone and remaining open, it WILL make a difference. That’s why I hope you feel strongly enough about this to take a few minutes to contact the Forest Service and let them know what you think.

I think it is a great idea for the FS to reduce expenditures. I wish all government agencies would do likewise. The problem here is road maintenance is expensive. Forest Roads must meet a certain minimum standard. We need the Two Tracks to be given a less rigorous standard. If Grandma’s Buick cannot make it safely down the road, merely put up a sign saying high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles only. The only maintenance needed for these roads would be culvert and bridge maintenance.

The next hurdle we have is the National Forest Plan road density standard. In Michigan, roads were historically laid out on section lines, which averages 2 linear miles of road per square mile of land. In many places, there are quarter section roads, which is a road every quarter mile. That adds 6 linear miles of road for a total of 8 linear miles of road per square mile of land. This is much more than the Forest Service wants for its uses.

Remember, the Forest Service is not the enemy. There are a lot of good people there trying to do a good job. But, they were given guidelines to follow. Part of those guidelines say, in essence, ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ It’s our job to squeak louder than those who wish to close the forests. Give them your opinion.

To contact the Forest Service, please follow this link for instructions.