Court Upholds Motorized Big Game Retrieval Under Forest’s Travel Plan

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A federal court has rejected a challenge to the travel management plan for the Kaibab National Forest that allowed limited motorized big game retrieval in the Forest.  The Southwestern Regional Office had issued guidelines which allowed National Forests to authorize motor vehicles to travel up to three miles from designated roads to retrieve bison and up to one mile to retrieve elk and mule deer.  The Kaibab National Forest then issued even more restrictive rules, in some districts not allowing any off road travel to retrieve mule deer and limiting certain access to only one trip using the most direct route.

The plaintiffs argued that the plans did not sufficiently limit the motorized retrieval on certain roads because they allowed retrieval on every single open road.  The court, however, noted that the plan limited the use in other manners, such as the number of trips, the route that could be taken and prohibiting it in some areas for some types of game.  The court also held that the reference to “certain” roads only meant that the roads had to be specified, not that the roads to be used had to be less than all the roads.  In addition, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ assertions that the issue was sufficiently impactful or controversial to merit an environmental impact statement (EIS) rather than an environmental assessment (EA), even though the Forest Service rejected a limitation requested by the National Park Service to preclude retrieval within one mile of Grand Canyon National Park.

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