The U.S. Forest Service has temporarily closed 18 miles of trails for off-highway vehicles in the Stanislaus National Forest as part of a settlement in a 2010 lawsuit filed by three environmental groups.
A written statement from the Forest Service said the trail segments were closed Friday until an analysis could be completed on the potential environmental damage caused by off-highway vehicles.
It has not been determined how long the closures will remain in effect.
The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in August 2010 by the Twain Harte-based Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center and two other organizations - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Wilderness Society, each headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The groups claimed that the Forest Service's 2009 Travel Management Plan failed to minimize damages from off-highway vehicles, such as erosion, trails cutting into streams and disruption of habitat for threatened goshawks, spotted owls, Western pond turtles and other species.
Sacramento U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller upheld the central argument of the suit in January 2013, ordering the Forest Service to work with the plaintiffs on a remedy for the 2009 plan's shortcomings.
For the complete story, see the May 27, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.