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BRC Responds to The Wilderness Society Report

May 11, 2016 3:47 PM

BRC wants to share this recent article from Environment & Energy Publishing in regards to an OHV Report from The Wilderness Society entitled: Achieving Compliance with the Executive Order "Minimization Criteria" for Off-Road Vehicle Use on Federal Public Lands.

The article highlights some Wilderness Society concerns about how the Forest Service is "minimizing" resource impacts caused by off-highway vehicle (OHV) use. BRC believes the report relies too heavily on land closures and restrictions as the primary management tools to reduce adverse impacts.

Instead, BRC would like to see the conservation community embrace a full suite of management or "minimization" tools that include: engineered trails, soil erosion control structures, trail armoring, signing, education, maps and law enforcement.

BRC believes it is time for the OHV community to engage in substantive dialogue with environmental groups and agency representatives to help create a holistic brace of management/minimization tools that can help protect resources and provide for high quality recreational experiences. (See article below.)

Don Amador
Western Representative

E and E Publishing

PUBLIC LANDS: Wilderness Society report urges tighter controls on OHVs
Greenwire: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter: Friday, May 6, 2016

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are failing to minimize the impacts of off-highway vehicles on public lands, leading to soil erosion, stream impairment, and conflicts with quiet trail users like hikers and campers, according to a report released yesterday by the Wilderness Society.

In particular, the agencies have flouted executive orders by Presidents Nixon and Carter that require they minimize impacts and conflicts caused by dirt bikes, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, the report argues.

It urges agencies to pass new guidance to help field staff decide where and what types of motorized recreation are appropriate. That guidance should be clear: OHV decisions should "actually minimize impacts -- not just identify or consider them."

Doing so could help keep the agencies out of the courtroom, where federal judges have handed them a series of defeats for failing to minimize OHV impacts, the Wilderness Society said.

"It's really important that the Forest Service and BLM stand up for the forests, deserts, critters and majority of public land visitors who enjoy quiet forms of recreation, and make sure that off-road vehicles don't cause unnecessary harm," said Alison Flint, counsel and planning specialist for the Wilderness Society in Denver. "It's now 44 years after President Nixon directed the agencies to do this, and still we are seeing widespread disregard of this responsibility."

Nixon's order in 1972 requires agencies to manage OHV access so as to "minimize conflicts among the various uses" of public lands. Trails should be located to minimize impacts to soil, watersheds, plants, wildlife and other recreation users, it said.

BLM and the Forest Service must "apply a transparent and common-sense methodology for meaningful application of the minimization criteria that provides opportunities for public participation, incorporates the best available scientific information and best management practices, addresses site-specific and larger-scale impacts and accounts for monitoring and enforcement needs and available resources," said the Wilderness Society report.

Agencies should "get out on the ground" to gauge resources and "ground-truth desk-top analyses," it said.

The report highlights several case studies where the Wilderness Society feels federal management of OHVs fell short. One is BLM's OHV management in Southern California's Mojave Desert, an area Congress in the 1970s recognized as "extremely fragile, easily scarred, and slowly healed."

"BLM, however, has continued to sanction rampant and irresponsible [off-road vehicle] use and associated resource damage, leading to a 2009 court order requiring the agency to go back and designate ORV routes in a way that satisfies its legal obligation to minimize impacts," the report said. "Unfortunately, the agency's 2015 proposal to double the mileage of its route network to over 10,000 miles utterly fails to satisfy that obligation and blatantly disregards the court's order."

Don Amador, the Western representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, which advocates on behalf of motorized users, said the Wilderness Society's report "brings up a number of good points" about the need for the agencies to enhance their trail management efforts.

But its emphasis on trail closures ignores other strategies for mitigating OHV impacts that do not turn away users, he said.

"I believe the report should have included examples of units that are addressing OHV resource impacts via substantive minimization-related management prescriptions, which include engineered trails, soil erosion control structures, trail armoring, signing, education, maps and law enforcement," Amador said.

The Forest Service has recognized the need for a "trail management culture," Amador said, citing the agency's newly released draft "National Strategy for a Sustainable Trail System."

Paul Turcke, who has represented the OHV coalition in federal court cases, said he is encouraged that the Wilderness Society "appears willing to invest in a solution that will allow us to better collaboratively manage vehicle access rather than solely seeking closures through the courts."


This article appeared in the E&E News


May 31, 2016 10:48 AM
MONTANA - Custer Gallatin NF Forest Plan Revision June Public Meetings Announced
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May 23, 2016 1:40 PM
Sawtooth National Recreation Area Wants Your Input on the Wood River Travel Plan
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA) is announcing the availability of the proposed action for the Big Wood Travel Management Plan. The purpose of this plan is to bring road and trail use into compliance with the Forest Plan, laws, and regulations; to provide a system of roads and trails for public access and recreational travel; to manage resource impacts that are occurring due to the use of roads and trails; and to rehabilitate non-system routes identified as a problem
May 20, 2016 8:32 AM
CALIFORNIA - Public Invited to Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Area Tour and Comment
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