New Mexico residents oppose travel plan by forest officials

A flare up is expected between government agencies and local residents in northern New Mexico, with locals opposing the Santa Fe National Forest’s travel management plan.

The area has been used by Hispanics for centuries, for ranching and collecting firewood from the forests. Government agencies have now revealed a plan to build new roads and to allow off-road vehicles into the area as a part of new travel plans.

The US Forest Service was given a time frame of four years to decide which roads and trails throughout the nation’s vast network of forests should be designated for travel by motorcycles, four-wheel and other backcountry vehicles. Seven years after the initiative was launched the profiling has not been completed and flare-ups between officials and locals are common. At odds are environmentalists, off-road enthusiasts and ranchers who have all been fighting for their own causes.

Now a state senator and residents of Glorieta Mesa in northern New Mexico have threatened to take their case to Congress and to federal court, after regional forest officials denied their appeal against the Santa Fe National Forest’s travel management plan. The locals are complaining that the influx of off-road vehicles would threaten their culture and traditions

Such antagonism has become common across the US as the Forest Service attempts to implement a 2005 mandate that is aimed at curbing unrestricted travel on all 155 forests and 20 national grasslands. On many occasions, forest officials have been sued over travel management plans that infringe the rights of locals.

With regards to Glorieta Mesa, residents have long been complaining about irresponsible off-road activities. Forest officials say that local residents were contacted over plans to determine which roads and trails across the 1.6 million acres of the Santa Fe forest would be opened to vehicles.

Mesa residents are demanding that only street-legal vehicles be allowed into their locality.