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UFWDA Community Forum  |  Regional Focus - News and Local Events  |  Northwest  |  Topic: IDAHO--The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Owyhee Field Office Comprehensive Tra « previous next »
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Todd Ockert
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« on: June 21, 2007, 11:56:47 am »

IDAHO--The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Owyhee Field Office Comprehensive Travel Management Plan

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Owyhee Field Office has kicked off a travel planning effort to prepare a Comprehensive Travel Management Plan for approximately 227,000 acres in what is known as the Murphy Sub-Region.

The BLM is interested in scheduling meetings with individuals and user groups over the next few weeks to discuss the route designation process. These meetings will include reviewing the current route inventory, gathering ideas and opinions and collecting any additional information needed via maps and field trips. To schedule a meeting, contact Ryan Homan at 208-896-5925 or via email at Ryan_Homan@blm.gov.

The BLM will be accepting comments through June 15, 2007. Submit written comments to, BLM Owyhee Field Office, 20 First Ave West, Marsing, Idaho 83639, Attn: Ryan Homan or via email to Ryan_Homan@blm.gov.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
The BLM is in a 45-day "scoping" period where they take information from the general public and user groups regarding "Planning Issues" that will be used when formulating alternatives. BRC has noted a disturbing trend in previous route designation plans in Idaho that requires immediate comment from the OHV community. In addition, BLM is attempting a "comprehensive" travel management process whereby they will identify routes for all modes of travel, including motorized, mechanized, equestrian and even hiking routes. This requires the immediate attention by all of Idaho's recreational groups as well as written comment on each of the "KEY ISSUES" below.

Please take a minute to review the information below and send a quick email to the BLM regarding the KEY ISSUES. This does not limit your ability to submit additional comments as the process moves along.

SITUATION:
The Idaho BLM's Owyhee Field Office is attempting to formulate a "comprehensive" travel management plan for the Murphy Sub-Region. There are several key issues that require comment.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
1) The BLM is interested in scheduling meetings with individuals and user groups over the next few weeks to discuss this important process. These meetings will include reviewing the current route inventory, gathering ideas and opinions and collecting any additional information needed via maps and field trips. Schedule a meeting for your local club by contacting Ryan Homan at 208-896-5925 or via email at Ryan_Homan@blm.gov.

2) Several key issues have been identified that require immediate comment. Please use the information below to help you send an email comment today addressing these important items. Your comment letter does not limit you from submitting comments or information later in the process.

The BLM will be accepting comments through June 15, 2007. Submit written comments to: BLM Owyhee Field Office, 20 First Ave West, Marsing, Idaho 83639, Attn: Ryan Homan or via email to Ryan_Homan@blm.gov.

KEY ISSUES AND COMMENT SUGGESTIONS:

KEY ISSUE #1:
THE NEED FOR A "PRO-RECREATION" ALTERNATIVE

Virtually all of the ongoing travel management planning projects in Idaho has one common critical flaw: a lack of a true "pro-recreation" alternative.

All of the alternatives developed for consideration represent a significant reduction in routes available for motorized use. Not one alternative even sustains the current opportunity. Conversely, virtually every project has developed a "conservation" alternative, where a maximum amount of closures are considered.

This sad situation must come to an end immediately!

Recreationist's are encouraging Idaho's OHV community to draw a line in the sand, beginning today, with this Murphy Sub-Region planning process.

The increasing demand for OHV recreation opportunities on public lands and National Forests is extensively documented. Therefore, we believe it is incumbent upon the Owyhee Field Office's planning team to formulate at least one alternative that maximizes recreation, or at least does not reduce recreational opportunities in the planning area.

According to the "Outdoor Recreation for 21st Century America: A Report to the Nation, The National Survey on Recreation and the Environment" (H. Cordell, 2004), the number of people driving motor vehicles off road in the United States increased over 109 percent from 1982 to 2000. In Idaho, the report estimates over 33 percent of Idaho's population enjoys OHV recreation.

In 2004, a survey conducted by Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation found that 52.4% of Idahoans participated in OHV recreation. Statewide registrations of trail motorcycles and ATVs have increased 75% in the last five years, from 59,395 in 2001 to 104,127 in 2005. These statistics demonstrate that OHV recreation is very important to Idahoans, and OHV use is growing fast.

The BLM itself has documented the increasing demand for OHV recreation opportunities. The BLM's "National OHV Strategy" states:
"Motorized off-highway vehicle use on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has increased substantially in recent years. ... Some of [the factors contributing to growing OHV popularity] are:
* greater public interest in unconfined outdoor recreational opportunities
* rising disposable income ...
* advances in vehicle technology
* the rapid growth of the West's cities and suburbs ...
* a population with an increasing median age with changing outdoor recreational interests

This [growing OHV] popularity is evidenced by the fact that recreational enthusiasts are buying OHVs at the rate of 1,500 units per day nationwide, with nearly one-third of them doing so as first-time buyers." BLM's OHV Strategy recognizes, as does policy outlined in BLM Manual 8340 (May 25, 1982), "that off-road vehicle use is an acceptable use of public land wherever it is compatible with established resource management objectives. Motorized OHV use is now firmly established as a major recreational activity on BLM-administered public lands."

Comment Suggestions:

* The planning team cannot legitimately address increasing demand for OHV recreation opportunity by refusing to accommodate such demand. Alternatives must include at least one that prudently provides for increased OHV use that meets the current and anticipated demand.

* The Planning Team must formulate a wide range of alternatives including at least one Alternative that maximizes recreational opportunities in the Planning Area.

* The Planning Team must formulate at least one Alternative that emphasizes OHV use in Roaded Natural and Semi-Primitive Motorized opportunity settings for recreation. This alternative should strive to provide for the current and future demand for OHV recreational routes.

* Alternatives should include areas where OHV trails can be constructed and maintained when demand increases.

* If appropriate, the BLM should use this process to analyze the impacts of any future route construction. Direction for the required process to construct new routes should be incorporated into each alternative. At least one alternative should maximize the ability to construct new sustainable trails to meet the current and future need.

* The planning team should develop management alternatives that allow for proactive OHV management. All alternatives should include specific provisions to mark, map and maintain designated roads, trails and areas in cooperation with OHV users. All alternatives should include direction to engage in cooperative management with OHV groups and individuals.

KEY ISSUE #2:
THE "COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL PLAN" DILEMMA

A motorized travel plan is a plan that specifically designates roads, trails and areas for motorized use, designates which vehicles will be allowed on which routes and if seasonal restrictions apply. A comprehensive trail designation plans does the same thing except it includes all trail uses, including mountain bike, equestrian and hiking.

It is a very important distinction.

Why is this distinction so important? Well, the anti-access groups usually attempt to convince the planning team to develop a "comprehensive" travel plan by using only the existing inventory of motorized routes. They do this by identifying existing motorized trails that are good for mountain bikes, equestrians and for bird watching... or whatever.

This is a very bad scenario because it takes the current motorized route inventory and tries to make it THE route inventory for all users. It leaves out possibilities for constructing or otherwise developing non-motorized trails and sometimes totally ignores existing non-motorized trails that exist in both the planning area and adjacent lands.

Now, that doesn't mean the agency can't take into consideration the effect each alternative will have on non-motorized visitors. It can - and it should. That is part of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis. But that is totally different from specifically providing a non-motorized trail system via the existing inventory of motorized routes.

It should be noted that BRC supports the creation, designation and management of non-motorized trails. In fact, in many instances there is a need for the construction and development of mountain bike and equestrian trails. We often help non-motorized users submit comments asking specifically for new trails for their use. In fact, lots of times such suggestions make sense. BRC believes the agency should consider construction of mountain bike and equestrian trails whenever possible. But the agency must not develop a "comprehensive" recreational trail plan using only the existing motorized trail system.

Comment Suggestions:

* I support the creation, designation and management of non-motorized trails, but not at the expense of motorized visitors. I ask that the BLM not use the existing motorized trail inventory for designating non-motorized trails. Instead, if there is a need for non-motorized trails, the BLM should consider options that do not reduce the existing opportunity for motorized users.

KEY ISSUE #3:
ISSUE: CUMULATIVE LOSS OF OHV RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITY

If you are like many OHV enthusiasts you have experienced recent closures in your favorite riding area. This is important issue to bring up and could have an impact on the decision. Below are some comment suggestions to help if this issue applies to your area.

Indeed, a quick review of the Sawtooth and Payette National Forest indicates thousands of miles of road and trail closures are just around the corner.

The issue of "cumulative loss of OHV recreational opportunity" is a valid issue we must bring to the BLM for consideration in this process.

Comment Suggestions:

* The cumulative loss of recreational opportunity by OHV users in Idaho is a significant issue that should be incorporated into the analysis and into the decision making process.

* Motorized recreational opportunity has been, and continues to be, reduced throughout the region. Through the past several decades, there have been literally thousands of miles of roads and trails closed to motorized use in Idaho. More closures are planned for the immediate future.

For example:
* The Payette and Sawtooth National Forests are proposing significant reductions in current miles of roads, trails and areas for motorized vehicles.
* Many BLM Offices in Idaho will be formulating travel plans that will close roads, trails and areas for motorized use in the near future.
* Federal land managers in states adjacent to Idaho are contemplating significant closures via ongoing travel management plans.

This proposal must not continue the trend of eliminating opportunity for vehicle based recreation.

* The cumulative loss of recreational opportunity for OHV users in the region has been significant and should be brought into the analysis and incorporated into the decision making process.

* The analysis should also include a brief but accurate description of the ongoing travel management planning projects on adjacent lands as well as other public lands in the region and estimate the cumulative impact of the Murphy Sub-Region travel plan to motorized users in context with all of the other closures.

* The planning team is encouraged to consider the cumulative loss of recreation as a planning issue.

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