Travel Management on the Inyo National Forest
From 1982 to 2000 the number of people driving off-highway motor vehicles in the US more than doubled. According to Inyo National Forest studies the same rate of growth has been experienced here as well. In 2005 the Travel Management Rule was developed to respond to this, recognizing the fact that a clearly defined and designated system of roads and trails did not exist at the time.
The existing National Forest Transportation System (NFTS or system) on the Inyo National Forest is comprised of approximately 1,360 miles of roads, which were incorporated into the NFTS through previous management decision. In addition to the NFTS roads, there are 1,699 miles of unauthorized routes. Many of these routes have existed on the ground and have been used by the public for a long time; however, they were never added to the National Forest Transportation System (NFTS) through a documented decision process. Many were developed for purposes other than recreation access. Past mining operations, timber sale projects and other access needs led to the creation of many of these routes. Although some have been in use for decades, others were recently created as forest visitors pioneered new routes to access destinations. These unauthorized routes were not necessarily designed to best meet public recreation or access needs and in some cases may adversely affect important forest resources.
Implementing Forest Service Policy
Friends of the Inyo has been involved with the travel management process from the beginning, including attending the majority of public meeting. Several stakeholders including the local OHV community participated before the final management decision was released. By 2012 Travel Management was well in the implementation process and Friends of the Inyo is one of the Forest Service’s contractors in this process, along with the American Conservation Experience (ACE), Student Conservation Association (SCA), and many others.
Friends of the Inyo is currently wrapping up a three year grant expiring in 2019 funding a crew to work seasonally to help the Forest implement the decision. Together with these other partners, implementation of Travel Management takes many forms, including opening routes previously closed while completing needed mitigation work, such as hardening stream crossings, as well as restoring routes outlined in the agency plan. Success brought tension with local groups. Our crews became targets for a perception that the management decision included improper road closures. Friends of the Inyo learned that we needed better communication and partnerships to navigate these issues more gracefully in the future.
As travel management becomes a smaller part of our stewardship work we will maintain the important relationships and trust with local agencies.
Looking Forward friends of the Inyo plans to broaden partnerships with the Eastern Sierra 4WD club and beyond. Examples of successful programs include our successful National Public Lands Day 4wd maintenance project.
Our Director’s strategic vision includes engaging local groups where we agree. This involves partnering with non traditional local allies who share our love for the Eastern Sierra. As travel management implementation ends we look forward to a renewed focus on inclusive public lands Policy, expanding our Programs, and engaging a wider audience in our Stewardship Events.