Appeal to San Juan NF RMP


pdficon_large.gif December 3, 2013

USDA Forest Service
Attn: Judicial and Administrative Reviews
1601 N. Kent St.
Arlington, VA 2220
RE: Appeal to San Juan NF RMP

Dear Sirs;
Please accept this correspondence and attachments as the notice of appeal and appeal of the above Organizations with regard to the USFS portions of the San Juan/Tres Rios (SJ/TR) Final Environmental Impact Statement (“FEIS”) and Resource Management Plan (“RMP”). It is the Organizations position that the analysis of many issues is arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law and fails to provide the hard look at issues mandated by NEPA. Often the analysis of impacts and reviews of management standards are made in violation of numerous other statutes and regulations.

The SJ/TR FEIS and RMP assert that economic contributions are based on and consistent with USFS VNVUM analysis and specifically cites to recently released NVUM research on economic contributions of recreation. Any allegation of consistency of findings is facially arbitrary and capricious and must be reversed, as the SJ/TR conclusions on recreational economics are anything but consistent with the NVUM economic conclusions as evidenced by the fact the SJ/TR asserts to be providing analysis consistent with high spending forests. This is directly contradicted by the conclusions regarding the spending profiles of user groups that are reached in the SJ/TR FEIS as these conclusions are often numerous factors less than the spending profiles that are identified for user groups for a low average spending forest. For several user groups, the average spend for that group is completely outside the conclusions for the range of spending for the same group. The FEIS analysis also fails to provide any analysis of how the changing management standards will impact funding to state agencies, whose funding streams have been directly tied to management issues addressed in the FEIS and RMP. An example of such a secondary impact would be that a lack of access for hunting has been specifically identified as the single largest issue that can be addressed in land management to maintain hunting funding for wildlife management.

The Organizations are vigorously opposed to the manner in which NVUM analysis is alleged to be relied on for some issues and completely overlooked for other management issues. The NVUM analysis overwhelmingly concludes that current management is effectively providing a high quality recreational experience to users of the planning area. These conclusions are simply never addressed nor does the FEIS or RMP provide any analysis on how the high levels of proposed management changes will impact the already high level of customer satisfaction. The Organizations believe that an 83% increase in areas where motorized usage is unsuitable will directly impact the quality of most users experiences to possibly improve the alleged negative experience that is currently provided to less than 2% of visitors.

In addition to arbitrary and capricious analysis of economic issues, the current management of numerous locations in the SJ/TR planning area are not accurately reflected in the FEIS/RMP. These are areas with long histories of motorized usage that remain open to such legal usage at this time. The FEIS/RMP also proposed to make landscape level determinations regarding the suitability/unsuitability of areas for motorized usage. While these determinations appear to be limited to USFS lands the future of this standard for possible application on BLM lands is unclear. As such the errors in the development of this standard are addressed here and the Organizations are not comfortable in assuming that BLM areas currently limited to existing or designated routes currently will not be designated as unsuitable at some point in the future.

Several factors appear to have been relied on in the determinations of area suitability that arbitrarily and capriciously conflict with both agency analysis and USFS regulations such as the Colorado Roadless Rule. How most of these factors are integrated into the final suitability determinations simply are not addressed Habitat areas are excluded from future suitability despite USFWS analysis made as part of the Endangered Species Act review process that motorized usage of these areas for numerous species is not an issue. Roadless areas are managed under a single standard of review that conflicts with the newly released Colorado Roadless Rule and fails to analyze how areas motorized usage would be a protected characteristic of a roadless area and then found to be unsuitable for motorized usage in two review process that occurred at functionally the same time in the same area.

Prior to addressing the specific appeal points, a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 2,500 members seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding. The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to insure that the USFS and BLM allocate to trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands.

Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA currently has 2,500 members. CSA has become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling by working with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators. For purposes of this appeal, Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition, the Trail Preservation Alliance and Colorado Snowmobile Association will be referred to as “the Organizations” in this appeal.

It is the Organizations position that the FEIS and RMP must be remanded to the Field Office for further analysis of the issues more specifically addressed in this appeal. The analysis of these issues and associated balance of uses that will result from meaningful analysis and a hard look at accurate information must then be provided to the public for an additional comment period. It is the Organizations position that an RMP for this area that is based on accurate economic information and accurate application of management standards will look significantly different that the current management standards sought to be applied.

To continue reading the entire 91 page appeal, download the PDF.