For background, the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservancy and their partners (PLAINTIFFs) filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service (DEFENDANTS) to CLOSE routes in the Eldorado National Forest due to inadequate NEPA analysis during the Travel Management process. BlueRibbon Coalition, CA4WDC and AMA-D36 filed as INTERVENORS on the side of the Forest Service to keep the routes OPEN. BRC, CA4WDC and AMA D36 stepped in and represented OHV interests. NO OTHER GROUP WAS WILLING TO STEP IN AND BECOME INVOLVED.
At a hearing in April 2011, the judge ordered the parties named in the lawsuit to enter into settlement negotiations and reach a mutually agreed settlement.
BRC and partners DID NOT accept a number of alternatives proposed. Nor did the Department of Justice negotiators representing the Forest Service accept any of the alternatives proposed.
Hence, as NO SETTLEMENT was reached, the suit went back to Judge Karlton. At a Feb 2012 hearing, Judge Karlton ordered the Forest Service to develop their plan; which is just now coming to light. And, that plan will go back to judge for the final ruling.
Throughout the process and still, BRC and partners OBJECT to the interim closure of routes in the absence of a route specific court finding that there is a likelihood of irreparable harm from continuing use, and that the balance of hardships and public interest both tip in favor of closure.
This means that in order to CLOSE any of the routes, BRC and partners are insisting that NEPA (proper analysis) be used as the means rather than a judicial decision.
The press release from the Forest Service indicates that they (Forest Service) have a plan to address the issues as ordered by the judge. That plan still needs to be approved by the judge before it is a reality.
CA4WDC is and has been a partner with BRC in lawsuits within the state of California for more than 15 years. CA4WDC recognizes the importance of access to public lands for recreation and is committed to protecting recreation access to public lands.
Jim Bramham and John Stewart try to attend each CA4WDC District Meeting to keep the delegates in attendance informed about the issues we are facing. The Eldorado issue has been a past topic presented to attending delegates. Brief information about it has also been included in a monthly report John prepares for the Board of Directors for distribution to members. That report is also posted to the Cal4Wheel website at http://www.cal4wheel.com.
Additional information concerning the lawsuit and copies of filings is available from BlueRibbon Coalition at: http://www.sharetrails.org/legal/eldorado.