For Immediate Release, May 26, 2011

Contacts: 

Karen Schambach, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, (530) 333-111333-
Lisa Belenky, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 385-5694

Court Finds Eldorado Forest Off-Road Vehicle Plan Illegal

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Today, a federal court rejected the Forest Service’s plan to increase off-road vehicle use in the Eldorado National Forest. The court found the Forest Service’s “Travel Management Plan” violated legal protections for fragile Sierra Nevada meadow habitat and the threatened California red-legged frog.

The Forest Service’s 2008 Travel Management Plan authorized 1,212 miles of motorized vehicle routes across the Eldorado National Forest, including designation of 23 miles of routes created by off road vehicle users in sensitive areas. The Plan included nearly 40 miles of routes on soils susceptible to erosion, 10 miles of routes within meadows, 290 miles of routes near stream-sides with 485 stream crossings, and routes in federally-listed red-legged frog habitat.

“Off-road vehicle use can cause substantial damage to water, wildlife, and soil resources, and disturb quiet recreation,” said Karen Schambach, president of Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation. “The Court recognized that the Forest Service needs to fully weigh those serious impacts before expanding off-road vehicle use on the forest.”

The Court’s decision responds to a challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, and Forest Issues Group. The Court found the Plan violated the National Forest Management Act and the Endangered Species Act by favoring off-road vehicle use over protection of sensitive forest resources, including endangered species and meadow habitats. The Eldorado National Forest includes key recovery habitat for the California red-legged frog and many other imperiled species and clean water resources critical to the state.

“The Court recognized that the Forest Service failed to take the steps needed to adequately protected red-legged frog habitat from off-road vehicle destruction,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Forest adopted a route system that unnecessarily fragments important meadow habitat, impairs riparian conservation areas, and ultimately would undermine forest health.”

Plaintiffs were represented by Dave Bahr of Bahr Law Offices, Erik Schlenker-Goodrich of Western Environmental Law Center, and Lisa Belenky at Center for Biological Diversity.

More information on the California red-legged frog, Sierra Nevada mountain yellow-legged frog, and Yosemite toad can be found here.