Officials deciding fate of national forest roads


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."