Five off-road groups challenge Forest service grouse rules | RecordCourier.com

Five off-road groups challenge Forest service grouse rules

Five off-road organizations, including one based in Carson Valley, challenged new Forest Service bi-state sage grouse rules in federal court on Thursday.

The Pine Nut Mountain Trails Association is listed as one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno.

According to the plaintiffs, the lawsuit is in answer to Forest Service rules implemented as part of the settlement of another lawsuit with the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Under the settlement, the Forest Service agreed that motorcycle or other off-road vehicle events would not be authorized on routes passing within four miles of grouse breeding sites at any time of day between March 1 and June 30," according to the recreational groups. "The lands affected by the event stipulations are in extreme northeastern California and northwestern Nevada."

The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Sierra Trail Dogs Motorcycle and Recreation Club, the American Motorcyclist Association District 36, California Four Wheel Drive Association and the BlueRibbon Coalition.

"Riding on existing dirt roads and single-track trails was acknowledged to be no more than a tertiary threat to grouse, even during the height of Obama 'Grouseketeer' planning," said Jim Fulling, planner for the Trail Dog's annual Mystery 250 motorcycle event. "The Forest's initial plan would have imposed three-mile buffers around grouse breeding grounds between March 1 and May 15 prior to 10 a.m., when there was at least a rational possibility that birds were on the leks."

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Fulling said the groups would have abided by those requirements.

"But the Forest sadly caved to the arbitrary restrictions demanded by deep-pocketed preservationists with a proclivity toward litigation," Fulling said. "We may be a peashooter to their bazooka, but we see little option but to enter this fray."

Efforts to preserve the population of bi-state sage grouse, which are considered distinct from the larger population of sage grouse, were designed to keep it from being listed as an endangered species.

The bird was initially listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but that listing was withdrawn.

That action was also challenged and the courts vacated the proposal to list the grouse as threatened, ordering the Fish and Wildlife Service to reopen public comment and issue a new listing by Oct. 1, 2019.