"Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it and spend it rather than invest it.
Well, it’s the start of another year of riding and fun. The weather has finally turned from winter to spring and the snow is coming off of the lower elevations pretty fast. Some of the higher areas might not be accessible as early as usual though. Things are still really wet out there in place so please be careful and “Treadlightly”.
We have been doing some work on MERA. We put more blocks in Trail 317 to shore up a steep pitch that is super muddy in the spring. We also worked on 327 doing some sidehill clean up and widening. We will keep plugging away as we have time. Anyone that wants to help out is welcome. I am trying to post on our facebook page when we are going up.
Saturday June 1 will be our annual MERA work day. We haven’t made any specific plans for what we are going to be working on but there is always something to do. The ATV trails always need work as do the single track trails. It would be nice to get some help. We might even treat workers to pizza again this year.
We will have our first Y.S.E.P. evaluation on Saturday May 25, 9:30 am at the MERA training area. If you know of any kids that need their hands on evaluation please let them know. They can get more info and sign up at ysep.omraoffroad.com. We had a real good year and lots of kids certified last year. Let’s hope for thew same this year.
Things for sale
Dan Brown donated a bunch of motorcycle stuff to the club to sell. There is quite an assortment of things. Helmets, a pair of riding boots, a motorcycle tow dolly and lots of miscellaneous. You can see pictures of what is available on our facebook page.
As of now we are planning to work with the Forest Servie on replacing one of the bridges on Breshears, probably late this summer. We will have to wait until the creek has gone down enough to be able to work in and across it. I will give everyone as much lead time as I can when we set a date to do it.
Blue Mountains Plan Revision Team
P.O. Box 907
Baker City, OR 97814
Dear Team Members,
We represent Eastern Oregon All Terrain Vehicle Association (EOATVA). We are an organization of over 100 members that enjoy recreating on OUR National Forest lands. Since our organization was formed in 1990 we have been the primary source of maintenance on the Breshears Trail system and Evans, Long Ridge and Telephone Ridge trails on the W.W.N.F. We also provide maintenance on trails in the Winom-Frazier Trail system. We have members who are the third or fourth generations of their families enjoying recreating on OUR National Forest lands. Our members range in age from their 80’s to young children. Motorized recreation is a part of our lives and our culture.
Our members are fed up with being treated as if we are a disease on the Forest. Over the years humans have continually been locked out of more and more of OUR public lands. We feel enough is enough and that human activity, including motorized activity, is a compatible use of OUR National Forests. We believe that this Forest Plan MUST take into account the Traditional Cultural Properties of the people who live and recreate on the three National Forests of Eastern Oregon. This includes their use of motorized transportation to access places that they may have visited for decades, years, months or only one time. Many of these places have special memories attached to them, or are a favorite place for the family to get away to. Whatever the reason, they should not be denied access due to their mode of transportation.
The stated goals in the Plan are Goal 1: Promote Ecological Integrity, Goal 2: Promote Social Well-being and Goal 3: Promote Economic Well-being. Yet it seems to us that in the preferred alternative that the main focus is Goal 1 and that Goals 2 and 3 are only given lip service. There appears to be little effort made to actually promote or improve social or economic well-being in Alternative E. Alternative D is the only alternative that seems to take Goals 2 and 3 seriously and try to improve those issues. More emphasis must be placed the social and economic well-being of the people who live around, recreate on and/or rely on OUR National Forests for a living.
We find it misleading that the Plan (DEIS Volume 1 Chapter 3, Table 10, pg 69) shows the percentage of forest suitable for summer motorized use on the Wallowa-Whitman at 75%, which may seem like a lot, but it does not factor in that this ignores the fact that nearly 50% of the forest is already closed to motorized use (Wilderness and other designations) but is not included in the Plan. So the actual “suitable” area is much smaller. The same can be said of the other two forests also, only to a lesser degree. We feel the Plan needs to take into account the actual amount of these forests that is not included in the Plan.
It is also misleading to compare the percentage of forest suitable to non-motorized use only (DEIS Volume 1 Chapter 3, Table 11, pg 70) at 25% on the Wallowa-Whitman while also ignoring that nearly 50% of the Wallowa-Whitman is designated non-motorized (Wilderness and other designations) already, yet not included in the Plan. In reality 100% of the three forests are open to non-motorized recreation in one form or another. 100% of the forests are also available to the wildlife that live there and in nearly all cases have and will habituate to human activity on the forests. This needs to be taken into account in the plan.
The same can be applied to over snow use. Motorized over snow users have far less access than stated and non-motorized over snow users have far more potential access than stated.
Alternative D falls closest to our desires as far as changes to acreage suitable for motorized routes. Only areas currently excluded by law should be designated as not suitable for motorized use, either summer or winter.
It is stated in different places throughout the Plan that there are “conflicts between user groups”. This term is subjective and no documentation is given as to what the “conflicts” are. From our experience those who choose motorized recreation are more than willing to share OUR public lands with everyone, no matter their chosen mode of transportation/access. It is non-motorized users who are unwilling to share, even though they have access to 100% of OUR public lands, while our access, in reality, is very limited by comparison. Using “conflict” as a reason in the Plan to reduce access, to anyone or any group, should not be allowed without proven documentation of the conflict and reasonable attempts to mitigate the conflict.
The theme of returning the forest to its “historical ecological condition” is mentioned throughout the Plan. While this may sound appealing it is not necessarily practical or possible. “Historical ecological condition” appears to preclude human use of OUR forest land. While we believe that it is prudent to try to repair past and current mismanagement of the forest, it is also important to recognize that human activity is now a natural part of forest management. Humans must be allowed to use the resources OUR forests provide. This includes not only consumer and subsistence uses, but recreational and other non-consumer uses.
On page 54 of the BMNF Proposed Revised Land Management Plan it says there are two distinct types of forest users. Regional visitors, that want more developed recreational sites, and local users who more often prefer less developed sites. Then it goes on to basically complain about a lack of funding to maintain current needs as well as for a backlog in deferred maintenance. The said solution is to just close these sites and facilities. The Plan has nothing to do with the amount of funding that may or may not be available. The Plan needs to focus on what needs to be done to reach the desired goals, not preemptively plan to reduce available facilities and access to OUR forests. Lack of funds is not a valid reason to restrict the use of OUR forests. As stated, a large majority of forest visitors are happy with their experience on the three forests. The number of forest users is only growing and reducing forest access will only lead to fewer people enjoying OUR National Forests.
Pages 59-60 of the Proposed Plan are about Cultural Resources. While we also believe that preservation of certain Historic cultural sites is necessary, to a certain degree, the traditional cultural properties of current residents of the area cannot be ignored. The traditional cultural properties of the living are just as, if not more, important as those of the past. These traditions and cultures include, but are not limited to, visiting scenic areas, hunting and fishing areas, camping areas, motorized as well as non-motorized trails and just general areas to drive or ride to that may help people connect with nature and their soul. These are all important to those of us that have grown up using and visiting OUR public lands. Our right to access OUR public lands, as we see fit, should not be compromised by some unfounded belief that human activity is all bad. Responsible use of OUR forests is OK and this should be reflected in the Plan.
This also plays into the topic of “Social Well-being”. These above mentioned uses of OUR forests are vital to the well-being of the local residents. Use of OUR forests is part of the fabric of the lives of many people in and around the communities surrounded by the three National Forests. Access to OUR National Forests is a big part of why many people moved here decades ago, and why many people have stayed here. Many of us feel that the people tasked with writing this plan (as well as the previous Travel Management Plan) are interlopers. I know these Forests belong to everyone in the U.S.A., but the people who have spent their lives living on and near them know what is best for them better than anyone else. Top down management and rule making from people who have possibly never visited a forest, much less any of these three, makes absolutely no sense. One size does not fit all. Listen to and heed what local people say. Listen to what people that have lived here 30 to 80 or more years have to say.
Roads and Trails Access, pages 60-63, gives a history of road and trail development as well as the reasons for their development. These roads and trails are still used for and needed for many of the same reasons they were when they were built. Unfortunately the USFS, as demonstrated when they created the Travel Management Plan, really has no idea what their road inventory is on the three Forests. They have maps, but no real idea which roads still exist, which ones are completely grown over, which ones have been converted to trails by forest users or which ones are used regularly but are not a main arterial road. No decisions on road density should be considered until a full and complete inventory of roads and trails, and their condition, on the three forests is made.
Under Desired Condition, the statement-“Trails designated for motor vehicle use provide a variety of recreational experiences, including various difficulty levels and trail lengths, access to scenic areas, and routes through assorted ecosystems. Loop trails, closed road systems, and trailhead developments meet the needs of increased recreation use.”- sounds appropriate for our members use. The question is, how and who determines the level of this need? From all indications in this Plan, our desired level will be much greater than the proposed level as indicated by the following. “Road systems are safe and responsive to public needs and desires, are affordable and efficiently managed, have minimal effect on aquatic and terrestrial systems, and are in balance with available funding. Road density is at a level appropriate to avoid causing resource concerns. Conflicts between user groups are minimized, and users take on appropriate challenges and risks.” Once again you are trying to use funding as a reason to reduce access. Funding issues should not be a part of the Plan. Who decides what “conflicts” are real and which are made up for the purpose of creating an illusion that there is a problem? “Conflict” is a subjective term, usually used by the side that wants to create it to promote a certain agenda. Supposed conflict is not a legitimate reason to restrict motorized, or any other, access to OUR forests.
“Access and Open Motor Vehicle Route Density
The desired condition is to reduce road-related sedimentation by reducing road density and reducing hydrologic connectivity of the road system. The desired condition for open motor vehicle route density within watersheds in MA
3C is 1 mile per square mile or less. In addition, all cross-country over-the-snow vehicle travel is prohibited within MA3C, and over-the-snow vehicle travel permitted only on routes designated open to summer motor vehicle travel.
The desired condition for open motor vehicle route density within watersheds within MA 3B is to minimize the number of miles per square mile as determined by a roads analysis. The open motor vehicle route density in winter elk habitat is 1.5 miles square mile or less.” What is the justification for these road density numbers and who determined what they should be? Just the fact that there are a certain number of miles of road in an area has no bearing on the impact that road has, especially on wildlife. The impact is determined by the amount of use on the road. Most ML1 ML2 and many ML3 roads only see sporadic or seasonal use, so their true impact on the environment is much less than ML4 and ML5 roads which see much higher usage. This does NOT make ML1, 2 and 3 roads any less important to their users than any other roads. In fact, reducing the number of these roads would be detrimental because it would increase the use of other roads and increase their impact, as well as increase the possibility of user conflict. Road density should not be the sole reasoning for reducing the number of miles of road.
As far as over-snow-vehicle travel, the above statement and “Snowmobile use is managed to provide varying challenges and distances while respecting ecological systems and other users”, where are the ecologic impacts? Where is the conflict with other users? Why are they not allowed in MA3C areas? Snowmobiles leave no trace of their having been there once the snow melts and spend the vast majority of their time where the snow is too deep for walking animals to be disturbed. Other than Wilderness Areas, snowmobiles should be allowed to travel wherever they can.
Dispersed Backcountry Motorized Use.
Effects from Alternative D on Dispersed Backcountry Motor Vehicle Use
MAs 3B and 4A would comprise the motor vehicle dispersed and backcountry recreation setting… In general, alternative D would allocate the largest amount of acres to backcountry motor vehicle use across the three national forests, primarily through an increase in acres allocated to MA 4A for each forest and a similar increase in acres allocated to MA 3B. Alternative D would result in a large increase in area suitable for summer motorized vehicle recreation use and would enhance snowmobiling, off-highway vehicle, and motorcycle riding opportunities and experiences. Conversely, this alternative would reduce walking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking opportunities, and experiences that emphasize quiet recreation.
For us, this would be the desired alternative as it provides for a more remote experience with less chance of encountering others. We also like the chance to get away from others. The statement that this alternative would reduce opportunities for non-motorized recreation is false. All of these forms of recreation can be compatible. As for “quiet recreation”, disturbance would most likely be rare and for very short periods. If avoiding vehicle noise is that important to someone, there are plenty of designated Wilderness, recommended Wilderness and Wilderness study areas available for that purpose. This Alternative would also leave open areas to snowmobiles that would otherwise be unnecessarily closed.
Wilderness areas already make up approximately 760,000 acres on the three forests, with another 93,000 acres either proposed or in Wilderness study areas. No justification is given for increasing this amount of Wilderness. A Forest Service study showed no need to increase Wilderness areas. There is no evidence that any of the proposed areas actually meet the criteria to be designated as Wilderness. In fact, we would suggest that if current Wilderness areas were re-evaluated, in terms of qualifying for Wilderness under the original Wilderness act, that much the area would not even qualify. Additional Wilderness is not needed to provide refuge for native species, nor is it needed for preservation of landform types and ecosystems.
As is, recreational use in Wilderness Areas accounts for only 8 percent of the overall use of the Blue Mountains. With an aging population and changes in the types of activities younger people are interested in, use is only likely to decrease. So, we could make a case for less Wilderness area rather than more.