Off-road vehicle advocates are suing the U.S. Forest Service over the agency's plans to close the popular Upper Tellico trail area in the Nantahala National Forest.
The move is the latest development in a four-year legal battle between four-wheel drive enthusiasts, environmentalists and the government over use of the area.
Tellico had attracted off-road enthusiasts from across the county with its nearly 40 miles of trails. The Forest Service last year said it would close the area after finding that off-road driving caused sedimentation that had damaged water quality in creeks and streams.
The lawsuit filed last week by the Southern Four-Wheel Drive Association and two other advocacy groups claims the agency broke the law when it started decommissioning trails without telling the public about its plans.
“The entire premise behind this closure – that water quality is uniquely flawed in the Tellico River – is simply untrue,” Roger Theurer, president of Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, said in a written statement. “We hope through this suit for an opportunity to present the full story.”
Environmentalists vow to fight the lawsuit.
I have no idea what's transpired with the water quality in the creeks and streams in question, or whether off-roaders are responsible or not. I should also say that I've never been on an off-road vehicle, nor do I know anyone that takes part in this acitvity. However, I do firmly believe that we hikers do not have sole rights to all public lands. National Forest lands are owned by all Americans, and therefore should be enjoyed through a variety of responsible outdoor pursuits.
Provided that off-roaders are respecting the forests, trails and streams, and are acting in a responsible manner, they should have the right to enjoy certain public lands set aside for their particular enjoyments.
HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.