Officials deciding fate of national forest roads

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Hundreds of miles of dirt roads and trails cut through northern New Mexico's mountains. The hard part is deciding which ones to keep open and which to close.

It's a scenario that's playing itself out across the country as the U.S. Forest Service tries to designate by 2010 a system of motorized routes that will provide recreational opportunities while still protecting America's natural resources.

… Critics say they are aware of only one other forest that took a similar path to the one being taken on the Carson. On the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, officials spent a couple years gathering public comment so they could develop a plan for designating which roads and trails would be open to motorcycles, four-wheelers and other off-highway vehicles.

However, no official comment period was held on the plan's environmental assessment, said Brad Brooks, a regional conservation associate with The Wilderness Society in Idaho.

"I think it really creates a lot of distrust when they won't even allow a simple comment period on an environmental assessment," he said. "In the mind of the public, if there's nothing to hide, then why not let people at least have a transparent process."