Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Eco-groups sue Forest Service over motorized routes

A quintet of environmental groups has sued the U.S. Forest Service, arguing that the agency gave its blessing to hundreds of miles of routes for motorized vehicles without proper review. The groups, represented by the environmental law organization Earthjustice, say the routes slice through some of the most treasured parts of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest: in wetlands, along gold-medal fishing streams and across important habitat for endangered Preble's meadow jumping mice and Mexican spotted owls. National forests already are criss-crossed by thousands of miles of vehicle routes — for cars, Jeeps and all-terrain vehicles — but new routes are supposed to undergo a thorough review to determine their impact before they are approved. The 500 miles of disputed routes did not go through such a process, the lawsuit alleges. Still, they appeared on the Forest Service's Motor Vehicle Use Map, according to the lawsuit. "Once they're on the map, it's sort of official permission from the Forest Service to use them," said Melanie Kay, an attorney for Earthjustice. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver. The groups listed as plaintiffs were The Wilderness Society, the Center for Native Ecosystems, the Quiet Use Coalition, Wildlands CPR and Great Old Broads for Wilderness...more

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