Alert courtesy of BRC...
U.S. Forest Service officials have announced the release of the Francis Marion National Forest's Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The draft plan will guide management activities on nearly 260,000 acres of National Forest System lands in South Carolina for the next 10 to 15 years.
This announcement marks an important step for the Forest Service-the Francis Marion is the first national forest in the country to release a draft plan and accompanying draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) under the agency's 2012 Planning Rule.
The next step in the process is a 90-day public comment period, which officially started on Friday, August 14, 2015, when the "Notice of Availability" of the DEIS for the draft plan was published in the Federal Register. The agency is asking those who are interested in the future of the forest to review the draft plan and provide comments online or via U.S. mail
Copies of the draft documents, along with other information on the planning process, can be found online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/scnfs/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5393142
. Comments can be submitted electronically at http://bit.do/FMPlanComments
or by mail to Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, Francis Marion Plan Revision, 4931 Broad River Road, Columbia, SC 29212. Submitted comments may be viewed in the forest's public reading room at http://bit.do/FMPlanReadingRoom
If not already part of the current plan, BRC believes the agency should develop travel management strategies. Here are several concepts that should be included in the forest plan revision process:
ML 3 Roads to Trails - Reclassify ML3 roads to ML2 roads. Reclassify ML2 roads to motorized trails or manage appropriate ML2 roads as "roads managed as trails." Manage appropriate ML1 roads as "motorized trails."
ML 2 Roads to Trails - Convert "roads-to-single track trails" or "roads-to-motorized trails less than 50 inches in width" and "roads managed as motorized trails greater than 50 inches in width" as a tool to help the agency achieve its budget objectives while still providing a substantive and high quality recreational route network.
Single Track Trails - 2005 Forest Service Travel Management Rule (TMR) Subpart B planning efforts in California and other Western States resulted in the loss of many, if not most, of our historic single-track motorcycle trails. Historic and legal motorized single-track opportunities such as enduro trails, old pack-mule/mining or pioneer trails were simply eliminated from consideration due to time constraints.
During those early planning efforts, agency representatives promised the OHV community that once these initial "foundational" route networks were established and codified that they would work with the users to either bring some of these historic single-track opportunities "back onto the system" or construct new engineered single-track system trails.
BRC believes that a strategy should be developed to replace the lost single-track experience. Retention or enhancement of high quality single-track dirt-bike trails is no different than keeping or enhancing "quiet" single-track hiking, equestrian, and mountain-bike trails.
Wet Weather Closures - Any TMR-based wet weather closure strategy should allow for native surfaced trails and roads to be open when soil conditions/lack-of-rainfall permits. If a wet weather closure is needed, the implementing Forest Order should be for the shortest period of time rather than a longer time period. In NEPA, it is always easier to extend a short closure versus repealing a longer closure.
Mitigate Trail Impacts from Non-Recreation Projects - The impacts from non-recreation projects often include obliteration of the trail or removal of water control structures such as rolling dips and catch basins. Those soil erosion measures can often cost $15,000 to $20,000/mile to install (or replace). Other sections such as at-risk species, water quality, and ecosystems have the same recreation mitigation deficiencies. BRC recommends that "trail mitigation" guidelines be added to relevant non-recreation projects.
Review non-motorized land designations - BRC believes the Forest should review current non-Wilderness areas that could be reclassified, reopened, or have cherry-stemmed routes designated for connectivity and/or touring opportunities. Many 1980-1990s-era Forest Plans used non-Wilderness "non-motorized" classifications to restrict or prohibit summer wheeled recreation. In many cases, OHV was simply not at the table or given substantive consideration during these programmatic planning efforts. In some areas these classifications such as "Near Natural" or "Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized" had the effect of functionally banning OHV use including designation of cherry-stemmed routes. The Forest Plan Revision process is the appropriate planning tool to reclassify lands for managed OHV recreation.
To learn if the Forest incorporated travel management strategies in the Draft Plan, please join Francis Marion District Ranger Rhea Whalen and other plan revision team members at public meetings planned for October. Dates, locations and other details will be posted online at http://bit.do/FMPlan