Recently I wrote a story urging hunters to participate in the public hearings and public comment periods held in conjunction with new Travel Management Plans (TMPs) being implemented by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
One of the reasons hunters need to get involved in this issue is because of how extreme environmental (read anti-hunting) groups can take advantage of it. The basic reason for TMPs is to reduce ecosystem damage and complaints brought about by drastically increased use of off-highway-vehicles over the years. TMPs essentially reduce where motor vehicles can be used. They provide public lands with more protection, but the price is more difficult access—and if there is one thing anti-hunters love it’s making it more difficult for people to hunt.
One group in particular, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), seems to be making TMPs a flag-waving issue. When the Forest Service decided to keep 233 miles of user-created tails open in Nevada’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, CBD filed an appeal, complaining that, “… the agency did an environmental assessment rather than a more comprehensive and public-input-friendly environmental impact statement.” They therefore failed to meet the intent of the rule, CBD claimed.
Jose Noriega, the Ely District Ranger disagreed, confirmed their assessment was sufficient and stated there was plenty of opportunity for public comment. “We actually did more than the minimum needed to satisfy the intent of the rule, and to provide opportunities for public comment,” he said. He added, “I definitely encourage hunters to get involved in the public comment process. Right now, an awful lot of them don’t seem to be doing so.”
CBD has also attacked the plan developed in the Tusayan Ranger District of Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest. In this case, the district officers allowed a provision for lawful hunters to go a limited distance off-road, specifically for the purpose of game retrieval (of elk only). (Joining CBD in this onslaught is the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.)
Yet the Travel Management Directive as published in the Federal Register allows for game retrieval exceptions to be made, giving “some” discretion to the district ranger officer involved, and stating that exceptions are to be used “sparingly.” But no justifiable reason has been given for not allowing game retrieval exceptions. The agencies cannot argue that this limited use, during a limited time period, will have any measurable impact to the land.
Travel Management Plans are a controversial issue. NRA believes allowances should be made for game retrieval. Beyond that, NRA encourages citizens who hunt in affected areas to voice their opinions, since they know best how local road and trail closures can affect them. TMPs are being made at ranger district and field office levels. Check the website for such areas that you hunt, and watch for announcements for upcoming TMPs and their comment periods.