Springerville -- The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests have released a modified proposal for motorized use on the forests, which is now available for public comment.
The proposal is one of several alternatives that will be developed and analyzed over the next six months.
"The modified proposal includes more motorized roads and trails available for public travel than did the earlier proposal," said Deryl Jevons, Acting Forest Supervisor.
"We have worked hard to consider all of the comments received and design a motorized transportation system that tries to balance the needs of non-motorized recreation and motorized recreation."
The Forest Service is requesting written comments about the modified proposal by March 14, so that issues can be further identified and a range of alternatives can be developed that address those issues.
The modified proposal calls for keeping 2,651 miles of roads open for public use in comparison to the 2,779 miles currently open across the forests.
The 128-mile decrease resulted from closing about 438 miles of existing forest service roads that are currently open; opening about 371 miles of roads that are currently closed; designating about 42 miles of existing trails and user-created roads to the Forest Service road inventory; converting about 93 miles of currently closed and open roads to to ATV routes for vehicles less than 50 inches wide; and establishing about 55 miles of new ATV routes.
"The proposal tries to establish a system of motorized travel opportunities where those users of ATVs or high-clearance vehicles will be rewarded with some outstanding rides while discouraging cross-country use," said Jevons.
The Travel Management Rule is scheduled to be implemented in the fall of 2009 and will close the forests to cross-country motorized use.
"Off-highway vehicles are a legitimate use in the right place, and that includes many places on national forest land. We just have to make sure that use is done in a responsible manner," he added.