Trail restrictions draw 150 to Cloverleaf Hall
Offroad club holds workshop for comment writers
By Corey Wicks
Wallowa County Chieftain
Officials of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest said they want public comment on their proposed Travel Management Plan that would close some trails to all-terrain vehicles in the county - and it appears that there is a 100 percent probability that they will indeed receive comments - lots of them.
About 150 residents turned out to a meeting last Thursday in the Cloverleaf Hall in Enterprise to hear about the U.S. Forest Service plan, and most appeared intensely interested in learning about the proposal.
During a PowerPoint presentation, Ken Anderson, Whitman District Ranger, said that the main change of the travel plan would involve restricting ATV and Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use on all un-maintained roads classified Maintenance Level 1, unless specified in the proposal. These roads are essentially not maintained and can be rough.
Currently, there are 9,200 miles of road in the forest, with 5,200 miles being Maintenance Level 1. Anderson said a goal would be to reduce the number of mileage that the forest service maintains, while keeping only what is necessary. There are 125 miles of OHV trails in the system currently.
On 3,570 miles of roads classified as Maintenance Level 2 through 5, there would be no change. These types of roads range from rugged roads meant for high-clearance vehicles to smooth double-lane roads.
There are about 3,000 miles of Maintenance Level 2, or rough roads for high-clearance vehicles, and most of those are available for OHV use, according to Project Leader Jeff Stein, who clarified some of the numbers after the meeting.
There are 735 miles of Maintenance Level 3 roads and the majority of those are available to OHV use, Stein said.
The 170 miles of paved roads, or ML 4-5 roads, are not available to OHV because Oregon statutes restrict OHV use on paved roads, he said.
During a question and answer period, Anderson said that they were seeking comments on the proposal and that the comments should be as specific as possible. In other words, if a person wanted to keep a certain road open to OHV use, he should list the specific road number and a rationale for keeping it open, he said.
Around the room at Cloverleaf, the forest service had 24 large maps of each section of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, and handed out copies of the maps detailing proposed road closures. The comment period was scheduled to close June 29 and, next spring, forest supervisor Steve Ellis would issue a draft alternative to the proposed action, said spokeswoman Judy Wing of the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. The deadline for the comment period may be extended, however, and an announcement on that issue will likely be made this week, Wing said.
One of several groups concerned about the forest service proposal, the Wallowa Valley Trail Riders, a motorized off-road recreation club, is sponsoring an all-day workshop Saturday June 2, from 9-5 p.m. in the Cloverleaf Hall to help people prepare comments for the Travel Management Plan.
"The forest service is pretty sticky with how people respond, so we want to help them," said Randall Parmelee, president of the trail riders club, after the meeting.
He said that their members knew that the Travel Management Plan was coming and that it could potentially have a big impact on motorcycle recreation in the county. "We knew that would close up cross country travel as we know it today," he said.
The all-day workshop would hopefully help people to be more effective in their comments, he said.
"We want to be proactive and show the forest service more than one alternative to the closure," Parmelee said.
He noted that, currently, there are only six miles of designated trails in the county for motorized recreation - a trail running from Cow Creek to the Imnaha River to the Snake River.
Stein said that the Cow Creek trail is too narrow for ATV use but is open to motorcycle, horse and pedestrian use.
Parmelee said he hoped that the forest service planners would see the value of motorcycle use as a family recreation to provide a healthy alternative to more harmful forms of recreation that youths might get into today.
The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest was carrying out the federal mandates of the Final Travel Rule for Travel Management for Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use that was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 9, 2005. The reasoning for that plan was that the increased use of ATVs and off-road vehicles has had a detrimental effect on the national forests and should be limited, the publication stated.
Written comments on the proposal should be sent to the Travel Management Team, Attention: Cindy Whitlock, 3502 Highway 30, La Grande, OR, 97850.
They may also be e-mailed to (firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions may be directed to Project Leader Jeff Stein at 426-5656, or Forest Recreation Planner Dan Ermovick at (541) 523-1250.