Forest Service restricting off-highway vehicle use
Peg Boland, District Ranger of the Klamath National Forest, and Dave Trevisan with the Shasta-Trinity National Forests appeared before the Siskiyou County Supervisors to explain the intent to regulate off-highway vehicle use. PHOTO/JOHN DIEHM YREKA - Currently the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National Forests Services land is open to off-highway vehicles unless designated closed. That is about to change with the two largest national forests in Siskiyou County proposing to restrict all such use unless specifically permitted.
Peg Boland, District Ranger for the Klamath National Forest and Dave Trevisan with the Shasta-Trinity National Forests, appeared before the Siskiyou County Supervisors recently to explain the implementation of the mandate each national forest has to regulate off-highway vehicle (OHV) use. Both federal entities have begun a inventory process, from which a decision will be made to "freeze" or limit such use to at least the level of existing usage.
Boland said both national forests are requesting help from the public in the inventory process. They are requesting those who use specific trails or roads in these national forests to tell them so those roads and trails can be placed in the inventory. Otherwise, they could be left out and excluded from permissible use.
"To enhance OHV recreation opportunities, promote visitor safety, and protect resources, national forests in California will designate a system of roads, trails, and OHV play areas that will be completed by Dec. 2008," Boland said.
Over the past 30 years OHV use has grown from approximately 5 million users of public land in 1972, to nearly 36 million users in 2000, a 600-percent increase. The OHV use has had an impact on public lands, prompting what the USFS feels is a need to regulate OHV use.
"In April of 2003 Forest Service Chief Bosworth identified 'unmanaged recreation' as one of four threats to the health of our National Forests and Grasslands," Boland said. "In August 2003 Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Blackwell signed a Memorandum of Intent with the State of California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Commission aimed at creating a sustainable system of roads and trails for use by OHV enthusiasts."
Both national forests already have completed inventories of the most common OHV use areas but request public input in case they missed any areas of use.
"We were asked to look for such areas not normally identified as such and study the ones most important to users to keep open and provide a system of management for these and move ahead with a set of forest orders for acceptable and legal use," Boland said. "We do have trails created by members of the public that are not on our system."
Boland said she is aware of public concern that the USFS will close some of the current roads and trails for OHV use.
"That concern is not valid," she said. "We have a procedure to identify roads and trails in our system and there is no talk about closing these."
She said the Klamath National Forest inventory is completed with the help of groups and individuals. "In a few months we will go out in a series of workshops, showing maps of these potential trails. We want to keep everyone informed and have no surprises."
Trevisan said the Shasta-Trinity National Forests started its inventory last year and hopes to have the entire forest surveyed by the end of the summer.
"The first public meeting in Mount Shasta was well attended," he said. "We asked the users to come forward to tell us where the trails are. If it doesn't show up on the inventory, it won't be legitimate trails to use."
Supervisor Bill Hoy said the concerns he hears from users are that the USFS is limiting its use to the public.
"Designating trails will cause more damage," Hoy said. "And what about deer hunters using quads to retrieve game? Will there be an exception for that use?"
Supervisor LaVada Erickson said she also perceived a lot of fear and concern about limiting the use of the national forests. "Who will decide which trails will be kept?"
Boland said the current forest supervisor, the position she now holds, will make the decision.
Erickson said funding is also an issue. From snowmobilers, Erickson said she learned that if the trail is not maintained, it has a tendency to go off the list of permissible use.
Boland said maintenance funding is an issue. "We could be looking for public-private partnerships, like the ones we have with hiking and horse trails."
"Public trust of the USFS is not strong," Erickson said.
"It is a two-way trust," Boland said. "We have to trust the public and they trust us. Trust is something that increases with partnerships and working together."
Trevisan said the Shasta-Trinity National Forests is also in the process of inventorying mountain bike trails.
"There is very little mountain bike use in the Klamath and this use will not be inventoried," Boland said.
Hoy said public mistrust of the USFS and its intent, fearing that identifying trail use will make one accountable for possible damage, and keep users from coming forward to help identify trails.
Boland said if an area is not identified in the inventory and study, itautomatically will be eliminated as a use area.
"That puts the user at a dilemma," said County Natural Resource Specialist Jim DePree. "There needs to be something to build trust so they will come forward."
By JOHN DIEHM