Officials Mull Off-Road Options

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Off-highway vehicles are increasingly popular modes of entertainment in Arizona's back country, yet the rules governing OHVs vary from forest to forest.

A series of meetings hosted by the U.S. Forest Service throughout the state aims to gain public input on how best to unify those rules. Forest Service officials estimate that 350 people showed up at one such meeting Tuesday at the Payson High School auditorium.

"The attendance was far, far larger than the previous meetings we had in places like Flagstaff, Williams and the Grand Canyon," Ed Armenta, Tonto National Forest district ranger, said.

Five alternatives under consideration were presented for public input:

Allow no off-road traffic, and restrict motorized traffic to roads marked "open."

Prohibit motorized cross-country travel except for emergencies, prohibit Christmas tree cutting, and restrict firewood cutting and camping to 300 and 100 feet from roads respectively.

Prohibit motorized cross-country travel except for emergencies and big game retrieval, allow firewood and Christmas tree cutting by permit in locally designated areas, and restrict camping to within 300 feet of existing roads.

Prohibit motorized cross-country travel except for big game retrieval, with firewood and Christmas tree cutting using existing permit systems, and camping permitted within 300 feet of existing roads.

Leave the existing rules and policies unchanged, the alternative a majority of those in attendance seemed to favor.

To provide input, e-mail project leader Jim Anderson at janderson08@fs.fed.us or write to him at P.O. Box 640, Springerville, AZ 85938.

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