A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of increased protections for Tahoe National Forest from motorized off-road vehicles. In a lengthy oral ruling delivered from the bench last Friday, Judge John A. Mendez of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a challenge to the forest’s plan to limit the damages that motor vehicles inflict on the forests. Earthjustice, representing The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, Forest Issues Group, Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, intervened in defense of the U.S. Forest Service’s plan for Tahoe National Forest. Earthjustice argued that there is no way to adequately protect a forest while allowing motor vehicles to trammel all over the forest with no restrictions or limits. Under the plan upheld Friday, while much of the forest is open to motorized vehicles, some especially sensitive parts of the forest are off limits.
Camas lilies in Sagehen Meadow in Tahoe National Forest. The impact of off-road traffic is felt far beyond the borders of the national forest. (George Lamson)
Said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who argued the case: “This is a good decision that strikes a balance to give Tahoe National Forest some necessary, basic protections. One thing both sides of this case agree on: Tahoe National Forest is a stunning, special place. With millions of people visiting Tahoe National Forest each year and the rapid increase of motor vehicles throughout the forest, we need some basic limits on motor vehicle use to make sure that we don’t love this place to death. It’s in all of our interests to preserve and protect Tahoe National Forest so that we all can enjoy it.”
Said Karen Schambach of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: “This decision sends a clear message: The days of allowing destruction of our National Forests from uncontrolled and unregulated off-road vehicles are at an end. We all have a right to enjoy our public lands, but no one has a right to destroy them.”