Heavy usage of the Tellico ORV trails system damaged trout habitat in the Nantahala National Forest. The Forest Service closed it — as required by law — and ORV enthusiasts subsequently sued.
The Southern Environmental Law Center intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Forest Service’s decision on behalf of Trout Unlimited, Wild South and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
The court decision brings to a close a decade-long process that began when Trout Unlimited and other groups held annual meetings with the Forest Service and ORV enthusiasts about erosion from the Tellico ORV area. When years of discussion failed to prompt action, conservation groups threatened to sue the Forest Service in 2007 because muddy runoff from the ORV area was devastating one of the last, strongholds for brook trout.