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Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds U.S. Forest Service decision to protect 400,000 acres from ATVs
Santa Fe, NM—On Monday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the second lawsuit by an off-road vehicle advocacy organization challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s 2012 decision reining in motor vehicle travel on the Santa Fe National Forest. WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, intervened in the first lawsuit filed by an off-road vehicle advocacy organization case to defend the Forest Service’s decision.
Before 2012, the Forest Service allowed motorized vehicles to travel uninhibited (“off road”) across the Santa Fe National Forest, without regard for damage to natural resources, harassment of wildlife, or disruption of quiet landscapes.
The Santa Fe travel management plan protects forest resources and wildlife—including Mexican spotted owls, Jemez mountain salamanders, and New Mexico jumping mice—by restricting motorized use to identified routes and areas. It also balances uses on the forest. The decision removed more than 5,000 miles of motorized routes, paths, and trails, but allowed motorized use to continue on more than 2,400 miles of routes in the forest. That’s enough distance to get you from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Missoula, Montana and back again.
“We are pleased to see this case seeking to undo vitally important landscape protections for the Santa Fe National Forest dismissed,” said John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center. “The Santa Fe is such a special place, and preventing environmental degradation at the hands of off-road vehicle enthusiasts is an important step towards preserving the Forest and its unique values for future generations.”
“The travel management plan for Santa Fe National Forest was one of the most balanced in approach and carefully researched,” commented Teresa Seamster, Northern New Mexico chair of Sierra Club. “The public, the forest and the wildlife are the beneficiaries of the years of work that went into it.”
“We are happy to see the court uphold the Forest Service’s decision to create a balance of uses that allows all of us—including the critters—to enjoy the Santa Fe National Forest,” said Marla Fox, Rewilding Attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “At a time when our public lands seem under constant attack from the Trump Administration, it is heartening to see a court decision that gives a win to wildlife.”