Targhee National Forest officials have ordered some of the eastern Idaho forest closed to motorized off-road use while they rework a travel plan.
The closure order leaves only 7 percent of the 1.8 million-acre forest open to off-road and off-trail use this summer - a significant decrease from last year when about 60 percent of the Targhee was open to motorized cross-country use.However, the order does not mean the forest is closed.
"There is still good access to most of the forest," said Alan Silker, recreation director for the Targhee.
The order is aimed at keeping motorized vehicles on roads and trails to protect elk and some grizzly bear habitat, as well as soil, water and vegetation that are impacted by off-road use. Winter access will be largely unchanged, Silker said.
The order is intended to temporarily protect resources until a new travel plan analysis can be prepared for public review and comment. A draft environmental impact statement on the Targhee travel plan is expected to be issued in July.
The decision to reduce off-road travel comes three months after Intermountain Region Forester Jack Troyer reversed a decision by Targhee National Forest Supervisor Jerry Reese to close 400 miles of forest roads. Troyer's move came after 1,200 appeals were filed by forest users who contended Reese closed the roads without their input.
Now Targhee officials have sent letters to about 3,000 people seeking input on the travel plan.
"We encourage people to come in and talk to our folks," Silker said. "And when they go to the mountains this summer, we want them to think about how these changes affect them, and then to make clear, understandable and meaningful comments."