Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Federal public land policies bashed at Capitol hearing

A congressional hearing in Sacramento on Monday provided a stage for complaints about the U.S. Forest Service, as off-roading groups, ranchers and others bemoaned access restrictions and steeper fees. The event was stacked with witnesses who want the Forest Service to reverse a modern-day emphasis on protecting habitat and recovering costs through steeper land-use fees. A major focus of complaint was a national effort to regulate off-road vehicle use on forest lands. Rules adopted by the George W. Bush administration in 2005 directed all national forests to designate off-road recreation routes so remaining roads could be abandoned or restored to improve habitat and water quality. Many of those routes were illegally created as the popularity of off-roading grew. Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood, an invited panelist, elicited cheers from a crowd of more than 200 in attendance when he said he would not enforce forest road closures in his county. "It is one of the most flagrant examples of federal overreach in recent memory," Hagwood said of the so-called Travel Management Program. "The Sheriff's Office will not create a new class of criminals out of our families and visitors who want nothing more than to enjoy their national forests."...more

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