Comments needed on motorized use in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Conservation Northwest / Jun 15, 2015 / Forest Field Program, Forest Roads, National Forests, Protecting Wildlands
WILD NW #240: OWNF Motorized Travel Management Plan
UPDATE: The comment period on this proposed plan has been extended through Friday, January 30th, 2015.
After nearly 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, January 30th, 2015. Suggested talking points are below.
Currently, motorized vehicles are allowed anywhere within the National Forest where they’re not specifically prohibited. Under the new proposal, they will be prohibited except in areas where they’re specifically allowed.
Conservation Northwest is glad to see that this proposal takes a more responsible approach to managing motorized travel on the national forest than the current situation.
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 proposed plan falls short in this regard; failing to address problem roads where the roadbed itself and motorized vehicle use contributes to impaired water quality, reduced fish and wildlife habitat, and diminished opportunities for quality non-motorized recreation including horseback riding, wildlife watching and hunting.
We look forward to working with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to further refine this Motorized Travel Management Plan so that motorized users can enjoy quality rides and compelling routes in balance with protecting fish and wildlife habitat, sensitive ecosystems, and quality opportunities for other forest users.
Please take a moment to comment on the proposed motorized use plan and help ensure that the future of OWNF is one where users of all types can sustainably enjoy our national forest.
Talking Points on OWNF Motorized Travel Management Plan
- As proposed, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF) Motorized Travel Management Plan does not sufficiently address problem roads where the roadbed itself and motorized vehicle use contributes to impaired water quality, reduced fish and wildlife habitat, and diminished opportunities for quality non-motorized recreation.
- The current Motorized Travel Management Plan is 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. Over 8,000 miles of roads currently traverse the OWNF, many of which are of low value to recreation and forest managed, while placing fish and wildlife habitat at high risk.
- We support the proposed limitation of motorized access to dispersed camping sites only within 300 feet of specifically designated roads. We also support restrictions on motorized use within 100 feet of water, with exceptions to the 100 foot set-back from water as applied to identified Respect the River sites.
- We do not support the unrestricted allowance of motorized use 30-feet from every road, as there are some roads that are located in highly sensitive and unstable terrain. We suggest that motorized use be allowed 30-feet from a road unless otherwise noted through signs or road restrictions.
- We support the proposed choice not to adopt any user created routes in this proposal, as they have been illegally created without proper analysis to determine their environmental footprint.
- The successful implementation of this Motorized Travel Management Plan will require significant education and self-policing from the motorized recreation community, as well as substantially increased monitoring and policing from law enforcement to ensure adherence. Neither of which are sufficiently addressed in the proposed plan.
For more on Conservation Northwest’s stance regarding motorized recreation, please see this blog article from June 2014.