Action Alert: Inyo County Road Maintenance and Motorized Mixed Use

Comments are needed on Inyo County Road Maintenance and Motorized Mixed Use on National Forest Roads.

On Jan 13, 2020 the Inyo National Forest provided notice that it is considering granting easements and special use permits to Inyo County for eight roads on the White Mountain and Mount Whitney Ranger Districts of the national forest.

The roads considered for easements are portions of Death Valley, Onion Valley, County, and Foothill Roads. Roads considered for special use permits include Division Creek, McMurray Meadows, Coyote and Mazourka Canyon.

This proposed action, if approved, would formalize Inyo County’s role in maintenance of sections of these roads and allow the County to request permission from the California Highway Patrol to allow motorized mixed use on the road segments, facilitating the County analyzing these roads for inclusion in the Inyo County Adventure Trails Program.

It is important to distinguish between easements and special use permits when considering the implications of this proposal. While several of the road segments are of nominal mileage and would be under special use permit, easements are generally permanent. Special use permits are short term, lasting between one and five years. As a result, there is an opportunity for the INF to review these permits each year and make changes if necessary based on results from monitoring. Easements do not provide this same opportunity for monitoring and reassessment. The INF is proposing to approve this project under a Categorical Exclusion, which will limit the opportunities for public comment and the environmental analysis the agency will be required to undertake.

We encourage our members and supporters to help us raise the following concerns regarding this proposal:

  • The potential for illegal trespass and damage to the land and impacts to wildlife are higher if OHV use is allowed on these roads. For example, the proposed Death Valley Road easement ends at the entrance to the Piper Mountain Wilderness perhaps providing additional opportunities for incursions into the wilderness. Therefore, before an easement or multi-year permit is granted, there needs to be a mechanism and established process for assessing the impacts of OHV use on these roads.
  • Education regarding the importance of OHV traffic staying on designated legal roads seems to be inadequate as there have been persistent trespass issues in Inyo County for decades. Before approving any new OHV legal roads, there should be a plan to augment educational measures and resources to ensure these newly legal OHV routes do not compound the trespass problem.
  • Enforcement against OHV trespass is currently inadequate. We know that adequate enforcement of OHV use on and around roads approved for OHV use is a challenge for both the Forest Service and the County. Before approving any permits or easements for new OHV legal roads, additional enforcement resources must be provided by the Forest and/or the County to ensure that the addition of these new routes does not compound the problem of illegal OHV use.
  • A categorical exclusion is inappropriate for this proposed action which could significantly negatively impact our public lands in Inyo County. A full Environmental Assessment is needed before permanent decisions are made or multiple year permits are granted to the County.

You can also provide the Forest Service with information about individual proposed road segments and the surrounding lands adjacent to these roads you care about. 

To view the proposed action and a map of the proposed roads visit the US Forest Service Website.

Email or mail your comments by February 18, 2020 to:

Erin Noesser

Tammy Randall-Parker
Inyo National Forest
c/o Erin Noesser
351 Pacu Lane Suite 200, Bishop, CA, 93514

Comments (1)

Thank you Jora. This is an excellent review of the project, and very helpful guidelines for commenting.

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