SONORA -- Visitors to the Stanislaus National Forest soon could find out what new limits will be placed on motorized travel.
Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski likely will announce her decision by early December, spokesman Pat Kaunert said Wednesday.
The rules aim to provide access for recreation while protecting soil, wildlife habitat and other resources. They cover nearly 3,000 miles of mostly dirt roads in nonwilderness parts of the forest.
The draft plan, released in 2007, recommends a ban on travel off designated roads except to reach campsites or other destinations within 100 feet.
Some roads would be closed, while some unauthorized routes would become part of the transportation system.
The plan covers four-wheel-drive cars and trucks, snowmobiles and other vehicles. It includes seasonal closures, mainly in winter to protect wet roads from compaction and erosion.
The plan is one of the most contentious issues in the forest in recent years, drawing comments from more than 200 people.
"I am appalled at the way the Forest Service is closing down access to our forests," one wrote. "Please keep the forest open. Wilderness is for the areas we can't get to anyway. Designate that!"
Environmentalists and some of the people who live near the forest have sought tighter controls on off-road drivers.
"Historically," another person wrote, "they have rarely been able to discipline their ranks and continue to degrade the environment, contribute to global warming with their fossil-fueled vehicles, create noise pollution and frighten wildlife as well."
The date of the decision is not known, but meetings have been scheduled to explain it once it is announced, Kaunert said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.