Tuesday, February 7th, 2023
Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

National forest road closure ruling on tap

Park Falls, Wis. – Sportsmen awaiting a “road ruling” from the
Forest Service will know by Sept. 25 how many miles of roads will
be closed to motor vehicle traffic under a new “travel management
plan.”

On that day, the Forest Service will publish its “decision memo”
in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the newspaper the Forest
Services uses as its newspaper of record in Wisconsin. That memo
will list which roads – if any – will be closed to various types of
motor vehicles.

If the Forest Service opts for Alternate 1, there will be no
change from what’s on the ground today. However, other alternatives
would allow for up to 2,500 miles of forest roads to be closed to
ATV or truck and ATV travel.

The Forest Service is considering three alternatives, or a
modification of those options, according to Joan Marburger, the
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest travel management plan project
leader.

CNNF Deputy Forest Supervisor Tony Erba was working on that
decision last week. Marburger said she did not know which option
Erba would select, but said he also has the latitude to take one of
the three alternatives and modify it based on comments that came in
from the public.

“It’s in a locked box,” said George Meyer, executive director of
the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, referring to Erba’s final
decision.

Meyer said he has talked to Erba in an effort to convince CNNF
officials to go with a “no change” alternative until more public
input could be gathered. Meyer is not convinced that he has swayed
Erba on that point.

“He asked to be on the October (WWF) board of directors meeting,
and he indicated that the Forest Service had heard the word from
the sportsmen,” Meyer said.

That meeting will be Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Ramada Inn in
Stevens Point. Meyer expects Erba to address the board at about 9
a.m. Meyer said the meeting would be open to the public.

“Erba further stated that the Forest Service would be making a
major push to get the word out to sportsmen during the fall hunting
seasons this year. They will be letting them know how to comment on
the road closures.

“I asked him whether they would be taking those comments into
account before they printed their 2009 maps in January. He said no,
but he then indicated that they would redo the maps later in the
spring of 2009 based on those comments and that those revised maps
would be what would be used during the fall 2009 season. That seems
like extra work to me,” Meyer said.

That information does not fall in line with comments from
Marburger and CNNF Supervisor Jeanne Higgins (see Higgins’
Commentary on Page 3 of this issue). Both Marburger and Higgins
said the Sept. 25 decision will result in release of a map in
January of 2009 that will list legal road uses. The Forest Service
will update that map each year or so, but the next update would not
be released until March of 2010.

Marburger said the Sept. 25 legal notice in the Milwaukee
Journal-Sentinel will set the designated system of roads.

“Beyond that, this is an annual process, and we will be updating
the map annually. Once the decision memo comes out on Sept. 25,
there will be no changes to anything until the second map is
printed in March of 2010,” Marburger said. “Those changes will have
to be decided before (March of 2010), but the date has not yet been
selected. There will be a comment period connected to that change,
and there will also be public outreach.

“Once the map (January of 2009) is published, any road not on
the map will not be open to public motorized use. It will be foot
traffic only,” she said.

Marburger said citizens may continue bringing roads to the
Forest Service for consideration for motor use or closure, but, at
this point, no changes would be made until the 2010 map is
published.

Meyer said WWF and other state conservation groups will closely
inspect Erba’s Sept. 25 decision.

“I’m not going to pre-judge (Erba’s decision), but we will look
at it very carefully afterward,” Meyer said. “We will be looking to
see if there are grounds to appeal – if there are massive road
closings without adequate public input.”

Heading into this current round of road considerations,
Marburger said the Forest Service did listen to the public. The
comment period ended Aug. 18. After that date, Forest Service
personnel went out and looked at each road listed by citizens for
“consideration.” Some citizens wanted roads closed to ATVs and
trucks, others wanted more roads opened to motor use. Roads that
will appear on the January of 2009 map will have come from Forest
Service input, or citizen input.

“We have looked at every road that was listed, specifically, in
the comment period,” she said.

As for the amount of roads considered for closure, Marburger
said the total is closer to 28 percent of the roads accessing the
forests, not 55 as has been reported.

“To put that 55 percent in context – on the forest, we have
about 9,200 miles of roads under all jurisdictions – state, county,
town, and forest. The only roads we can affect are the Forest
Service roads – those under Forest Service jurisdiction. That is
about 4,600 miles.”

She said the proposal is to not make available to motorized use
about 2,500 miles.

“That’s in the proposal, but it’s still not in the Sept. 25
decision – that decision hasn’t been made yet. The roads under
town, county, and state jurisdiction are not affected by the
decision, so it’s really 28 percent of the roads accessing the
forest,” she said.

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