ELKO — Five public meetings are planned next week on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft study of the Travel Management Plan for the Elko County area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
The first meeting is at 3 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Memorial Day at the Jarbidge Community Hall, and the second is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Elko Convention Center.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Jeanne Higgins will attend the Elko meeting, Humboldt-Toiyabe Public Affairs Officer Christie Kalkowski said Friday.
The third meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Wells Fire Station. The fourth will be at 6 p.m. MST at the Mountain City Visitor Center and the fifth will be at 6 p.m. MST at the Jackpot Community Recreation Center.
The Mountain City, Ruby Mountains and Jarbidge ranger districts are holding the meetings to explain the draft environmental impact statement the Forest Service released earlier this month on the Travel Management Plan and to answer any questions, according to Tom Montoya, Mountain City district ranger.
“We will do a presentation and then open up for questions and give people time to look at maps,” he said Friday.
The Travel Management Plan designates roads and trails in the forest system for public use and designates others for closure.
The proposal has drawn a lot of interest in Elko County. Montoya said the districts extended comment periods a couple of times during the scoping process before the EIS was prepared, and there are new requests to extend the comment period on the draft document.
“We have requests for extensions of time, and one of them is from Elko County, which is asking for six months,” Montoya said.
Elko County Commission Chairman Charlie Myers told the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority earlier this week the county wanted the six months because of the potential impact of the road plan.
“We’re asking all county commissioners in the state to get involved,” he said.
The ECVA promotes recreational trails in Elko County on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.
Montoya said environmental organizations and others are asking for a 30-day extension.
The current deadline for comments is June 21.
Montoya said any determination to extend the comments would involve the regional Forest Service office.
“We have a timeline,” he said.
The region wants the process completed and a decision issued on the Travel Management Plan by the end of this calendar year.
“This is the last one left in the region,” he said.
The meetings next week offer another opportunity for the public to ask questions and comment, and Montoya said the draft EIS already incorporates public needs and environmental concerns brought up earlier.
“There are 1,100 miles of additional trails and roads we’re adding to the system,” he said, explaining these trails and roads weren’t designated as part of the forest transportation system in the beginning.
“We’re trying to emphasize that we heard from the public, and I think we did a pretty good job of including these routes. If you look at what we did in other places, I think we were pretty generous,” Montoya said.
Gar Abbas, the Ruby Mountain and Jarbidge district ranger, said in an announcement on the meetings that he is “hopeful that we can clear up some of the misunderstandings. Our primary intention is to designate a system of roads and trails for motor vehicle use.
“We want to ensure that our Elko County residents know that it is not true that the districts will be closed to all recreation activities,” he said. “Motor vehicles would be required to stay on designated roads and trails.”
“If folks can’t make the meetings, they can come into the office and talk to me or go to the office in Wells and talk to Gar,” Montoya said.
The draft EIS includes five alternatives and describes the potential impact of each one, according to the Forest Service.
Montoya may be reached at 738-5171 and Abbas may be reached at 775-752-3357.