TESTIMONY OF JEFF LYALL
Before the U. S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Resources,
Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health
February 15, 2000
THE FUNDING OF ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES AND
THEIR IMPACTS ON LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Thank you, Madam Chairman, and members of
the Committee. I am honored to have the opportunity to testify before you here today. My
name is Jeff Lyall. I am thirty-two years of age. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of
In June of 1991, I received a level C5-6 spinal cord injury as the result of an auto
accident. I was an avid outdoorsman. I liked to hike, backpack, camp, hunt, and fish,
mostly on National Forest lands in Virginia and North Carolina.
Madam Chairman, I still enjoy the outdoors, but wheelchairs are poor off road vehicles.
So in 1995 I modified a Jeep CJ to become my new legs and feet. This gave me access to the
outdoors once again.
However, not long after that I discovered that the vast majority of OHV roads on
National Forest lands in my area have been closed down. Now I cant enjoy the
outdoors by the only means available to me -- and neither can anyone else with a mobility
In the Blacksburg and New Castle Ranger districts where I live in Virginia, there are
some 66 gated National Forest OHV roads with 110 miles of potential forest access. But
theres a problem. Of these 66 roads, only 9 are open during certain times and zero
are open year round!
Hikers and mountain bikers can use them any time. But because my feet, and those of
some of my friends, consist of four wheels and a motor, I am denied access. If thats
not discrimination on the basis of disability by an agency of the Federal Government,
Carla Boucher is the attorney for United Four Wheel Drive Associations, which is an
international organization that represents four wheel drive enthusiasts. She is bringing a
lawsuit against the Forest Service on road closure issues. She has documented that less
than 2% of all forest visitors use Wilderness areas, but those areas take up about 18% of
all National Forest lands.
On the other hand, off highway users, 35% of all forest visitors, traditionally used
roads on less than 2% of Forest Service lands. So it seems that the Forest Service caters
to 2% of the visitors to Wilderness areas, while closing roads that take up less than 2%
of the total National Forest System.
In the fall of 1998, I began talks with local National Forest officials. I discovered
that the Forest Service has adopted a policy they refer to as "OBLITERATE
ROADS", meaning they intend to gate and destroy as many OHV roads as possible. Since
these roads are the only viable access to these public lands by a mobility challenged
person, this is in effect, a Federal Policy of Discrimination against the estimated 54
million disabled people in the United States. Not to mention the millions in the Senior
community who enjoy the outdoors, but are not able to travel as they once did.
Mrs. Boucher found that 76,300 miles of Forest Service roads are now closed. One in
every 5 miles of Forest Service roads are closed. Just last year, the Forest Service
closed 683 miles out of 800 miles of OHV roads in the Daniel Boone National Forest,
effectively eliminating motorized access.
Within the past year, three OHV roads in my own backyard, which have been open since
the 1950s and 60s, were bulldozed and gated, cutting off my access to these
National Forest lands. In essence the Forest Service is saying, "if you cant
walk, we dont want you in our forests!"
This has got to stop. And the people behind it have to be stopped. Mrs. Boucher has
found that these road closures have been pushed by environmental groups funded by large
foundations and working with Clinton administration insiders.
Mrs. Boucher found that the National Audubon Society pushed the President to
permanently preserve 40 million acres of roadless areas. The Pew Trusts funded the Audubon
Society, which will funnel more than $3 million to 12 environmental organizations to
pressure the Forest Service to shut down more roads.
So, I now understand that it isnt simply a line officer with the Forest Service
who is shutting me out of our National Forests. It isnt even simply a matter of some
local or national environmental organization trying to shut down the forests. It is large,
rich, foundations such as the Pew Charitable Trusts that are discriminating against me and
the entire disabled community by funding environmental groups to push policies such as
"Gate and Obliterate."
I cannot fight them alone. I am respectfully requesting Congressional investigation
into the involvement of large foundations in making land management policy for the Forest
Service. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.