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Houston Regional Group - News
Forest Service Calls Time Out on SHTC
Brandt Mannchen

In a strange turn of events, after the Sam Houston Trails Coalition (SHTC) voted to seek a grant, with U.S. Forest Service (FS) approval, that would have opened the entire Magnolia Section of the Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT) to mountain bikes, two weeks later the FS sent a letter to the SHTC which stated that the FS would not support any grants for 2011 until a Sam Houston National Forest (SHNF) trails master plan has been formulated.

The Sierra Club and Lone Star Hiking Trail Club (LSHTC) protested the vote at the SHTC meeting as being premature because consensus had not been allowed to work between these two groups and the Greater Houston Off-Road Bicycling Association (GHORBA). Only one meeting occurred between the groups and the Sierra Club offered to meet GHORBA in-the-field to find an acceptable way to get mountain bikes from FM 2025 to FM 945 using as little of the LSHT as possible. GHORBA never responded to the Sierra Club offer and the GHORBA representative said at the SHTC meeting that his time was valuable which was why GHORBA had not met with the Sierra Club.

After the SHTC meeting the FS facilitator fielded a number of calls from members of the SHTC about what had happened at the meeting. The FS Supervisor is concerned about the way grants are being applied for before agreement is reached on a SHNF trails master plan (for hikers, mountain bikes, horseback riders, motorcycles, and all-terrain vehicles - ATVs). One concern is that going for grants before a SHNF trails master plan is complete circumvents the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process which is the way the public participates in the determination of whether federal projects will be approved and implemented.

The Sierra Club raised the NEPA and the no SHNF trails master plan concerns for months but had not been able to get support for a deliberate and fair process. The Sierra Club sent a letter to the FS after the SHTC meeting which expressed disappointment with the FS's actions and complained about the unfair process that occurred at the SHTC meeting. The Sierra Club will continue to work for a fair process that will lead to consensus and a SHNF trails master plan that will address all trail user concerns.

February 2011

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