Subpart A: Administration of the Forest Transportation System

Why Travel Analysis?

The ability to affordably provide safe access, for the most benefit, with the least harm to the environment, is becoming more difficult. The National Forest Transportation System of roads is deteriorating due to age and reduced maintenance. The number of visitors has increased, placing an even greater demand on the road system.

The core of Travel Analysis is national forest access by roads. Some forest visitors feel that unrestricted access is a non-negotiable right. Memories of access to remote, favorite places and activities may extend back generations. Other visitors may feel that forests should not have as much motorized access, perhaps also with memories extending back generations, memories of quiet enjoyment and solitude. Still more, are visitors with both perspectives. To some degree, all feel ownership in these public lands, and don’t want to see their use and enjoyment threatened, diminished, or eliminated. There is a need to involve all publics together, to look at the opportunities for a realistic, sustainable road system that considers current and future access needs.

What is Travel Analysis?

Travel Analysis is the Forest Service’s science-based process developed in response to the 2005 Travel Management Rule 36 CFR 212.  The Rule has three subparts:  Subpart A — Administration of the Forest Transportation System; Subpart B - Designation of Roads, Trails and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use; and Subpart C — Use by Over-Snow Vehicles. The Rule has existed for many years with varying subparts prior to the 2005 Travel Management Rule, and it has been updated several times, most recently in 2005. Along with Part 212, Parts 251 (Land Uses), 261 (Prohibitions), and 295 (Use of Motor Vehicles Off National Forest System Roads) were updated to provide national consistency and clarity on motor vehicle use with the National Forest System.

In response to direction to regulate motor vehicle travel by the public, National Forests in California completed their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decisions related to route designation required by Subpart B. As stated throughout the Travel Management effort (response to Subpart B), Forests would subsequently start the process that will lead to identification of the minimum road system. The start of that process, Travel Analysis, is a current focus of the Pacific Southwest Region.

What Will the Analysis Provide?

Travel Analysis will inform future decisions for designation of roads. The analysis will provide a whole-forest view of all the National Forest Transportation System roads and will involve those who use and are affected by the roads.  It will allow for a forest-scale integrated view of the issues, risks, and benefits for users and forest resources associated with the National Forest Transportation System roads.  Opportunities identified must support objectives of relevant land and resource management plans. The analysis process uses ecological, social, cultural and economic information. It complements and informs other processes.

Together with input from interested and affected individuals, Tribal governments, government agencies, as well as Forest Service employees, the analysis will produce a comprehensive list of opportunities for potential changes to the road system. Those opportunities could be to change road operation strategies, decommission, convert to other use, relocate, or add to the road system.

Travel Analysis is Not NEPA

Unlike an analysis performed to comply with NEPA, Travel Analysis doesn’t result in a decision with a selected alternative to be implemented. The final product from Travel Analysis is a report, which will display findings as opportunities and recommendations to inform future management and administration of the National Forest Transportation System.

The requirements for public involvement under Travel Analysis are not the same as they are for NEPA analysis. Travel analysis allows for each forest to craft their public engagement strategy, sequence, and schedule to mesh with the six-step process. While responses to Public comments and their input are not required, that does not diminish the need to involve the Public and consider their input during Travel Analysis. Also, since there is no decision to be implemented, the Travel Analysis report cannot be appealed.

Public Involvement

The Travel Management Rule generated a very high level of interest, not only from the general public, but from Tribal governments and all levels of government agencies. Each forest that prepared their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for designation of roads, trails, and areas for motorized use followed NEPA requirements for public involvement. Communication with interested individuals, groups, Tribal governments, stakeholders, local, state, and federal agencies varied by forest. But one message was very clear:  Forest Service communication did not meet public expectations in all cases.

As we go through the Travel Analysis Process, the Pacific Southwest Region is committed to involving the public, Tribal governments, local, state and other federal agencies, and other stakeholders in this effort. Various locations along the Six-Step Travel Analysis lend themselves perfectly to involving the public:

Travel Analysis Steps and Public Involvement

Step 1 – Setting up the Analysis:  Media releases, roll out/open house, external website information, request information since MVUM publication, new data, etc.

Step 2 – Describing the Situation:  Sharing existing road system inventory (not just MVUM), access needs, review of past decisions, display of available road Operation and Maintenance resources, etc.

Step 3 – Identifying Issues: Request key issues, concerns; share management concerns and legal constraints.

Step 4 – Assessing Benefits, Problems and Risks: Share methods for assessing benefits and risks with the Public, acknowledge conflicts.

Step 5 – Describing Opportunities and Setting Priorities: Explain range of opportunities, why they are important, emphasize they are not decisions.

Step 6 – Reporting: Maps, tables, opportunities available in multitude of locations, hard copy, electronic, published, etc. The contents of the Travel Analysis Report should not be a surprise to the Public.

At a minimum, each forest will engage with interested individuals and stakeholders, Tribal governments, special interest groups, and local, county, state, and other federal agencies. In addition to sharing the goals and process of Travel Analysis with external parties, the forests will invite them to share their issues, knowledge, information, and suggestions regarding the roads of the National Forest Transportation System. Their input will enhance our understanding, knowledge, and analysis of the National Forest road system. Their shared issues, wants and needs, and identified risks and benefits pertaining to roaded access will be folded into the science-based analysis. Their contributions will be considered as the forest develops opportunities for addressing expressed risks and benefits.

Each forest will refine their own communication plan, specific to their location and affected internal and external stakeholders/participants. The means of communication can include personal contacts, meetings, conferences, media releases, field trips, etc. Use of social media and websites are also encouraged as a means to reach individuals that are interested, but not available locally to give input

The public involvement will be needed at various steps during the analysis:  initially, they will be recipients of the information to be shared about Travel Analysis, the process, and how to participate. From there, five of the six steps have an element that can benefit from public involvement: contribution to or validation of current data; expression of access needs; identification or affirmation of issues and concerns; description of benefits, problems, and risks; and suggestions of opportunities for changes.

Because this is a forest scale analysis, and not a decision-type process, it does not seek to reach consensus. Travel Analysis will look at all the information available on roads, in addition to that provided by involved publics, and report where issue, risks, benefits, and opportunities associated with roaded access are present.