Comment on motorized plan for Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Conservation Northwest / Jul 22, 2016 / ATVs
WILD NW #261: Last chance to weigh in for a plan that moves the Forest towards a balanced motorized road and trail system
After a decade of work, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF) has proposed a Motorized Travel Management Plan to address the use of Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) in the forest, including ATVs and dirt bikes.
Comments on the plan are being accepted through Friday, July 8, 2016. Suggested talking points are at the bottom of this message, and comments can be submitted at: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=46467
Currently, motorized vehicles are allowed anywhere within the National Forest where they’re not specifically prohibited. Under the proposed plans, they will be prohibited except in areas where they’re specifically allowed.
The final draft proposal currently up for comment includes several alternatives for motorized use on the forest. This is our last chance to weigh in for an alternative that moves the forest towards a balanced motorized road and trail system that provides access to the national forest while protecting and restoring natural resources, including fish and wildlife.
Please submit a comment before July 8! Suggested comments below.
We support keeping ORVs off closed roads and illegal user-created trails. We also accept that motorized recreation is one way people choose to enjoy the outdoors, and we support allowing motorized recreation on designated routes where comprehensive analysis has found such use does not create an overly negative impact on ecosystem health, fish and wildlife habitat, and other forest users.
Unfortunately the current Motorized Travel Management Plan proposals are a missed opportunity to holistically address the issue of creating a sustainable road system on the OWNF that balances motorized access with fish, wildlife and natural resource protection and quality non-motorized recreation.
As we learned last December in a Forest Service report, 49 percent of the forest roads on the OWNF are posing a high risk to natural resources. At the same time, the Forest is over $10 million short every year in funding to keep the current road system maintained. This means the Forest’s roads need to be downsized to a level that is ecologically and economically sustainable. Currently the Travel Management Plan proposals do not address these risks or the size of the road system, but rather take only a first step in defining use on the existing roads on the forest.
Of the alternatives that are presented, we believe that a modified Alternative C that protects important fish habitat by restricting dispersed camping on roads within 300 feet of streams recognized as Critical Fish Habitat while also opening WATV use on six existing motorized routes is the best option as an initial step towards a sustainable motorized road and trail network on the forest.
Please copy our suggested comments and paste them into the Forest’s public comment form! And don’t hesitate to personalize your comments to make them more effective.
More information from the Forest Service on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Travel Management Plan can be found at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=46467,
Suggested comments on the Okanogan-Wenatchee Travel Management Plan
Dear Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue. The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is deeply important to me, as well as to fish, wildlife, heathy ecosystems, outdoor recreationists and local communities. It’s important that the Forest adopt a sensible and sustainable Travel Management Plan that moves the forest towards a balanced motorized road and trail system that provides access to the national forest while protecting and restoring natural resources, including fish and wildlife.
The current Motorized Travel Management Plan proposals are a missed opportunity to holistically address the issue of creating a sustainable road system on the OWNF that balances motorized access with natural resource protection and quality non-motorized recreation. And adoption of a final plan is only a first step. Over 8,000 miles of roads currently traverse the OWNF, many of which are of low value to recreation and forest management, while placing fish and wildlife habitat at high risk. While this plan closes cross country travel and motorized use on all Level 1 (closed) roads, as highlighted by the travel analysis reports released last year, much work remains to create a sustainable motorized travel system on the forest that balances access needs with natural resource protection.
Of the alternatives presented, I believe that a modified Alternative C that protects important fish habitat by restricting dispersed camping on roads within 300 feet of streams recognized as Critical Fish Habitat while also opening WATV use on existing open roads on six routes collaboratively identified by forest stakeholders is the best option as an initial step towards a sustainable motorized road and trail network on the forest. Investments in implementation, enforcement, and education are vital to the success of a final Travel Management Plan.
Adoption of a final plan must be followed with a forest-wide approach to winter motorized use, as well as landscape recreation planning efforts and project level decisions to address problem roads that pose a risk to natural resources and areas on the forest where motorized use (trails and roads) is out of balance with management goals for watershed protection and habitat such as the Yakima basin including the Snoqualmie Pass Adaptive Management Area.
As you finalize the Travel Management Plan, please continue to consider how problem roads and motorized recreation can negatively affect water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and opportunities for quality non-motorized recreation including hiking, horseback riding, wildlife watching, and hunting. Please continue to take steps to limit negative impacts while appropriately balancing the diverse interests and needs of forest stakeholders, as well as the needs and health of the forest itself and the fish and wildlife that depend on it.