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US judge upholds closure of NC off-road rec area

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A federal judge has upheld a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to close the Upper Tellico Off-Road Vehicle Recreation Area in the Nantahala National Forest due to erosion and environmental damage.

A coalition of three national off-road vehicle associations sued the forest service following the 2009 decision to close the popular recreation area's trails to motorized vehicles.

U.S. District Court Judge Martin Reidinger issued an order Wednesday. In it, he agreed with the federal government's assessment that frequent use of the area's 39 miles of trail damaged water quality in the Tellico River and its tributaries through sediment runoff, harming the native trout population.

Following the 2009 closure, officials said trout and other species are returning. The recreation area is still available for fishing, hiking and hunting.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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