- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2011

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Opponents of a plan to close roads on New Mexico’s Gila National Forest contend forest officials aren’t listening to the people.

The opponents plan a rally Saturday in Silver City against closing roads.

Eighteen groups are expected to participate, and Republican Congressman Steve Pearce says he’ll speak.

Gila officials acknowledge they’re proposing a major change.

Currently, the southwestern New Mexico forest is largely open to driving cross-country.

The forest plans to limit vehicles to designated roads and restrict vehicle camping to areas along the sides of roads or near them.

Officials say they’re trying to strike a balance with the Gila’s watershed, wildlife, plants, air quality and cultural resources.

National forests and grasslands were told in 2005 to designate which roads and other areas would be open to vehicles.