Local Forest Service officials have erected signs indicating that 14 roads will be obliterated over the next few weeks. Posted carsonite signs state “ROAD TO BE OBLITERATED IN” with a hand-written time frame and date. Typically the stated time frame is 2 to 3 weeks and the date is late August.
The signed roads were not included in the Forest Service 2010 motor vehicle transportation plan.
Based on conversations with the crew doing the work, it appears that the roads will not be obliterated (in the sense of being wiped out), but instead, will be blocked at one or both ends by large rocks, logs, dirt berms or trenches.
The roads to be obliterated are in the north and south Elk Ridge and the Woodenshoe areas of the Monticello District of the Manti La Sal National Forest. The roads themselves run the gamut from unused and almost totally rehabilitated tracks to good roads that serve useful purposes with little or no resource impacts. In most cases it appears that obliterating the road will cause more resource damage than leaving the road as-is.
San Juan County’s concerns with this project include the following:
- To our knowledge there has been no public notification or involvement. We found out about the project through information provided by County residents who had seen the signs.
- The opportunity for public response is constrained by the very short time from the signs being put up to the beginning of obliteration; typically 2 to 3 weeks.
- As mentioned above, some of the roads serve multiple useful purposes with no observable resource damage. These roads should be candidates to be added to the Forest travel plan.
- The Manti La Sal National Forest is in the beginning stages of developing a new forest resource management plan which will contain guidance for transportation planning. This would seem to be an inopportune time to be obliterating potentially important and valuable transportation infrastructure.
- The Forest Service recognizes that more efficient management solutions are needed to meet the increasing public demands for recreation and other use on the forest. Not obliterating potential valuable and in-place transportation infrastructure would seem to be consistent with forward-looking, efficient management.
San Juan County agrees with the closing of the some of the roads in this project. Some of the roads however should be candidates for inclusion in the the forest travel plan and would serve multiple important uses.