Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Chairman, this amendment guarantees that the public has the full opportunity to comment before a forest road is closed or destroyed.
These roads are vital to tourism, and tourism is vital to the economy of these communities. Yet the U.S. Forest Service has become very aggressive in recent years in shutting down these roads, restricting public access to the public lands, and replacing Gifford Pinchot's inclusionary vision for the Forest Service, which he once described as serving ``the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run,'' into an exclusionary vision that can best be described as: look, but don't touch.
The Forest Service has now bypassed Congress and has adopted a rule that effectively allows it to close any road that it deems to be unnecessary or undesirable without environmental review or public consultation or comment. My amendment simply reasserts Congress' authority to protect public access to the public lands and requires that road or trail closures follow the established process of public notification and input.
Under this provision, the Forest Service can still decommission trails or roads that it considers obsolete, but only after ``adequate and appropriate public involvement.'' That's it. Before you decommission or destroy an existing road or trail, you have to ask the public. It codifies one of Pinchot's maxims for what he called ``the behavior of foresters in public office.'' He said: It is more trouble to consult the public than to ignore them, but that is what you are hired for.
Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Chairman, perhaps I could assist the gentleman in his confusion by simply reading the amendment, which is simple, straightforward, and clear:
The Forest Service shall not remove or otherwise eliminate or obliterate any legally created road or trail unless there has been a specific decision, which included adequate and appropriate public involvement, to decommission the specific road or trail in question. The fact that any road or trail is not a Forest System road or trail, or does not appear on a Motor Vehicle Use Map, shall not constitute a decision.
That is it. That is the alpha and omega of this amendment in its entirety. If you're going to close a public road to the public, you need to ask them first.
I cannot emphasize enough how important this is to the mountain communities of the Sierra Nevada that depend on mountain tourism for their economies. Tourists don't go where they're not welcomed. Tourists don't visit where they can't get to. The public's use of mountain trails and roads is absolutely central to mountain tourism, and removing or closing these trails or roads is not something that should be done behind closed doors by administrative fiat.
I ask for your ``aye'' vote, and I yield back the balance of my time.