Mt. Hood Travel Plan announced- Comments due by Oct 31!
September 27th, 2007
Mt. Hood Travel Plan announced- Your comments needed!
October 31 is the deadline to tell the Forest Service to protect recreation and healthy watersheds--not give away the forest to off-road vehicles
We have an incredible opportunity to influence the future of Mt. Hood National Forest for decades to come. The network of roads around Mt. Hood connects every issue of concern to Oregonians - literally and figuratively. For the next sixty days, the Forest Service will be accepting comments regarding their travel management revisions, including two public meetings.
In addition, see Bark's "Events" page for details on two public open houses hosted by the Forest Service. Your attendance is critical!
In 2005, the Forest Service finalized the Travel Planning Rule. The rule requires all national forests to designate those roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use including Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs).
Mt. Hood National Forest was the first forest in the Pacific Northwest to begin Travel Planning. Most forests that have already begun Travel Planning are in the Southwest US and are mostly focusing on controlling devastating OHV use. In the Pacific Northwest OHVs are a big problem, but pale in comparison to the damage being done by a crumbling road network. The Forest Service is currently proposing six large playgrounds for OHVs; 55,000 acres of Mt. Hood that will be unsuitable for hiking, mountainbiking and horseriding access, not to mention the loss of wildlife habitat.
Not only does this solution fall short on an enforcement plan, but it falls short on the chance to look at our entire forestwide system of roads and the watersheds it currently threatens. Thousands of miles of roads are closed, but being used by off-roaders. Hundreds of culverts have become nonfunctioning after years of maintenance backlog, bringing increased sedimentation and chemical runoff into our drinking water sources, while making a perfect recipe for catastrophic landslides. Dozens of favorite camping sites have become inaccessible by washouts on major roadways, taking sometimes years for the Forest Service to prioritize repairs. These are the issues the Forest Service should be taking into consideration.
Right now, decisionmakers on Mt. Hood National Forest need to know the real priorities of the public when it comes to public lands!
WHAT ABOUT RECREATIONAL ACCESS? The Travel Plan must address roads: The current proposal creates OHV playgrounds, and discusses potential future fish habitat restoration through road removal, but does nothing to address all other recreational access.
PROBLEM: For nearly a decade the Forest Service has recognized the need to address the burdensome road infrastructure, and streamline it to provide better recreational access, yet once again the Travel Plan does not include action to move toward this goal.
PROBLEM: The Forest Service is increasing its budget for timber production, yet access to key recreation areas like McNeil, Riley, and Lost Creek Campgrounds; the Ramona Falls Trailhead, and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness is closed due to a lack of funds to make road repairs.
SOLUTION: Include in the Travel Plan an analysis of roads that are critical for access to recreation destinations, those that are economically burdensome and should be closed, and those that potentially threaten natural resources and should be actively removed. In the meantime, commit to no new road building until this analysis is complete.
OHV PLAYGROUNDS SACRIFICE TOO MUCH OF MT. HOOD: The current proposal creates six off-road playgrounds surrounding Mt. Hood, covering approximately 50,000 acres and 220 miles of "trails." All other areas will theoretically be "closed" to OHVs, or Off-Highway Vehicles.
PROBLEM: A report by Utah State University commissioned by the Utah Division of Parks & Recreation to help "better plan OHV management strategies on Utah public lands" reveals that an inordinate number of riders prefer to ride "off established trails." Of the ATV riders surveyed, 49.4% prefer to ride off established trails, while 39% did so on their most recent excursion. Of the dirt bike riders surveyed, 38.1% prefer to ride off established trails, while 50% rode off established trails on their most recent excursion. Mt. Hood National Forest only has four full-time law enforcement officers to stop illegal OHV use.
PROBLEM: OHV use makes up 0.17% of visitation to Mt. Hood National Forest (USFS 2004 NVUM, Table 13), yet the proposed acreage dedicated to the six OHV playgrounds makes up 4.5% of the forest.
PROBLEM: Whereas most other forms of recreation (hiking, biking, fishing, climbing, etc.) do not preclude other users, pollution and noise from OHVs create recreational "dead zones" and impact people and wildlife surrounding the OHV playgrounds.
SOLUTION: The size of the OHV playgrounds should be proportionate to the demand, and the Travel Plan should explicitly describe how it will contain OHV use through increased law enforcement and barriers to illegal routes (often old logging roads) so that wildlife and other users will not be disrupted.
DETERIORATING ROADS CAN'T WAIT for multiple administrative processes and uncertain funding. The current plan leaves Mt. Hood's 4,000-mile road network to at least four other restoration analyses without a date-certain for completing the removal of unnecessary roads that threaten our watersheds.
PROBLEM: In 1999 the Forest Service determined that 49% of Mt. Hood's roads are unnecessary (USFS 1999 Mt. Hood ATM), yet less than 10% of the roads have been removed. The remaining 39% is continuing to deteriorate, and could collapse at any time.
PROBLEM: Mt. Hood's roads system is just the tip of the larger recovery of forests suffering from years of heavy management. By leaving the rest of the roads issues to be considered in smaller, restoration projects we not only miss the chance for larger, forestwide analysis and future direction, but also take away from the true restoration work that only begins with the removal of a road.
SOLUTION: Use this historical moment to assess all the needs and direction for the future of travel on the roads in Mt. Hood through the Travel Planning process, creating a guide for immediate road removal and maintenance prioritization that reflects the true need. Use the future funding for restoration for invasive species removal, erosion control and stream recovery.
For more information on the Mt. Hood Travel Plan please visit http://www.mthoodplan.org.
Mt. Hood Travel Planning announcement
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Related previously published articles:
Forest Service leaves quiet recreation in OHV's dust
Forest Plan Now Accepting Comments on Future of Roads
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