This is about the Ochoco Summit Trail System Project:
The project proposes to designate a trail system in the Ochocos specifically for off-highway vehicles. The trail would be open seasonally and it would be built using mostly existing roads and trails tied together by some currently open roads. It would be a system where motorcycles, quads, side-by- sides, and Jeeps could ride trails designed specifically for enjoyment and recreation. The trail system would be accessed at designated staging areas, parking areas, or trailheads.
The current Final Supplemental EIS has five alternatives for the trail system that range in distance from 124 miles (Alt 2) to 158 miles (Alt 4), and the No Action alternative (Alt 1).
The idea for this system originated in 2009 when the Ochoco National Forest conducted travel management planning. The 2005 Travel Management Rule required the forest to designate a system of roads, trails, and areas for motorized use and to prohibit cross-country travel. Under the motorized travel system adopted in 2011, recreational OHV users lost a lot of opportunity. More than 80 percent of the forest was made off-limits to OHV use and most of the roads still open to OHV driving lack connectivity and must be shared with cars and trucks. Through an engineering analysis, some system roads were also deemed unsafe for mixing non-street legal OHVs with
passenger vehicles and commercial traffic.
The Oregon Hunters Association, the state’s largest, pro-hunting organization made up of more than 10,000 members, filed the lawsuit in the Pendleton Division of the United States District Court on Aug. 31, arguing the decision to approve the trails is not supported by scientific wildlife research the Forest Service completed on the Starkey Experimental Forest in Northeast Oregon.
The hunters association argues the addition of trails and roads would increase use, which Forest Service scientists have shown adversely affects elk habitat, according to a news release from the hunters association Research on the Starkey Experimental Forest found the animals avoid areas within 1.1 miles of roads or motorized trails.
This idea of designating a motorized trail “system” as a distinct “project” seems kind of unusual to me (it’s not just a “travel plan”). The conflicts with wildlife are not, however. There’s also a claimed violation of NFMA. This lawsuit (“environmental extremists” abusing the legal system?) might get at some interesting questions about motorized recreation use on public lands.