ELKO — Property owners will be to blame for more road closures proposed under the U.S. Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan.
Property owners who have roads going through their lands and don’t want to give public access will have the forest roads that are connected to their land closed, District Ranger Wendy Fuell said during the Elko County Commission meeting Wednesday.
“We can’t force ourselves on private landowners,” she told the commission.
Some owners whose land the roads cross have requested that the Forest Service not list the roads on the travel management maps. In doing so, the roads would become closed to all public access, including the parts on Forest Service land, as a proposed part of the travel management plan.
“We won’t include the road on the map at the landowner’s request,” Fuell said.
Under the travel management plan, when a road is stricken from the map it will become illegal to drive on unless a special permit is granted to the driver. Land owners, in order to access their own land, will be able to request permission from the Forest Service to use the road, but the general public will not be able to.
Access to state, tribal and Bureau of Land Management lands will be restricted because of roads that go through private lands being stricken from the map.
County Commissioner Demar Dahl and Fuell agreed to disagree over who’s fault the road closures would be.
Dahl proposed the Forest Service leave the portions of the roads on private property off the map but leave the portions on Forest Service land on the map.
“If you close the road, you can’t even ask the landowner (for access),” Dahl said.
Fuell restated that they could not force the landowners to grant access. Landowners had expressed deep dismay and concern at the prospect of a map showing a forest road even if the portion on private land were excluded on the map.
“I don’t think it’s the landowners,” Dahl said. “I think it’s the Forest Service.”
Commissioner Jeff Williams asked what enticements the Forest Service was offering to ranchers and landowners to help gain easements, such as offering to put up cattle guards and gates.
Fuell said for the landowners she had talked to, many of whom are not ranchers, cattle guards and gates weren’t even an issue.