By New Mexico Business Weekly

The New Mexico Environment Department is requesting help and funding from federal officials to address the unauthorized use of off-road vehicles threatening rivers and streams in national forests in the state.

NMED Secretary Ron Curry sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting assistance and expressing concern about the impact on the environment and water quality that results from the use of unauthorized trails and roads by off-road and all-terrain vehicles in national forests. He also requests $150,000 to finance an assessment of water quality impacts caused by ATVs and ORVs in the Jemez Mountains in the Santa Fe National Forest.

⿿These informal motorized routes follow or criss-cross streams, damaging stream bank integrity and riparian vegetation, accelerating erosion and creating deep gullies and headcuts that are particularly devastating in New Mexico⿿s fragile arid landscape,⿝ Curry wrote in the letter.

He said he toured an area of the Jemez Mountains affected by the vehicles in 2009 and expressed concern to the Santa Fe National Forest supervisor.

⿿One year later, ORVs and ATVs are still uncontrolled on our national forest public lands, destroying fragile soils and riparian ecosystems that have been entrusted to the Forest Service,⿝ Curry wrote.

More than 100 miles of perennial water bodies are impaired for suspended or ⿿bedded⿝ sediment in the Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest, according to NMED.

The department would use the funding to hire a technical contractor to quantify the contribution of the vehicles to impairments. The department is waiting for the release of a draft environmental impact statement by the Santa Fe National Forest for the travel management plan for public comment. That has been delayed, Curry said in his letter.

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010