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New Mexico Federal Lands Council

NMFLC

Press Release

Text Box: For Immediate Release, April 11, 2006
Closed Unless Posted Open
Under the U.S. Forest Serviceís (USFS) proposed Travel Management Plan (TMP), only roads posted as "open" will be allowed for use, according to New Mexico Federal Lands Council (NMFLC) President Mike Casabonne, Hope.
"The TMP is being developed to control off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, but it could end up leaving ranchers without access to their USFS allotments," Casabonne explained. "Other members of the public like hunters and wood gatherers could be facing the same access problems."
A copy of the USFS transportation rule that includes the travel management plan can be found on the web at: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/ohv/final.pdf .
Under present USFS rules, any road that is not marked "closed" can be used, he said. On the new forest maps that are being drawn, all roads that are not marked "open" will be closed. That includes uses such as checking waters, maintaining fences and pipelines, hauling livestock or any other reason a rancher might have for using a road.
"Allotment owners need to get copies of the color-coded maps from their individual USFS ranger districts," Casabonne advised. "On recently obtained maps, roads marked green are currently open. Those in red are currently closed. Roads marked in brown are proposed to be closed under the new plan. If there is a road that is marked closed or proposed to be closed that you need, you should inform your USFS district ranger in writing that the road must be left open for the operation of your grazing allotment.
"If there are roads not shown on the map that you need for your operation, you should request that they be drawn on the map and designated as open," he continued. "Using GPS coordinates and/or pictures of roads that require designation would be helpful in making sure they are correctly identified."
No deadlines have been set for the completion of the TMP, but ranchers are urged to make sure their necessary roads are in place as soon as possible, Casabonne said. Some Forests in the state have set an initial cut off date of May 1st for inclusion of roads on the start point maps.
While it may not be impossible to get roads reinstated or listed after the completion of TMP, it will be costly with ranchers needing roads being required to pay for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and archeological clearances, according to Casabonne.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is also considering travel management regulations, he said. BLM allotment owners should be making preparation for a process similar to that currently underway with the USFS.
The NMFLC (formerly the New Mexico Public Lands Council) is the voice of the federal lands ranching industry, which takes in more than 20 millions acres within the state. For further information on the TMP or other issues facing federal lands ranchers, contact the NMFLC at 505.247.0584.