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Ochoco National Forest seeking comments on trail system project
One of three proposals currently under review will be chosen this spring
February 11, 2013
When Ochoco National Forest staff implemented the 2005 Travel Management Rule, off-road vehicle enthusiasts vehemently opposed the forest road closures the action prompted.
As it turns out, another facet of that same program will yield as many as 212 miles of new recreational vehicle trails on the Ochoco in the future.
Ochoco staff have recently released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Ochoco Summit Trail System Project this past Friday for public review. This follows a scoping process that yielded substantial public input.
“With this project, we are trying to provide people with a range of recreational opportunities,” said Tory Kurtz, acting public affairs specialist for Ochoco National Forest.
The EIS draft follows a scoping period in which the Forest Service sought input on the proposed project from community members.
“We received a lot of comments and we received them from all spectrums of concerns,” Kurtz said. “I know that there was a lot of community outreach prior to even developing the proposed action.”
Input came from people who wanted to see more trails, while others expressed concerns about big game habitat, water quality and fish habitat, and conflicts between motorized and non-motorized uses.
The EIS draft proposes four alternatives for the public to consider. One option calls for no change, an option Kurtz said is required with any EIS. A second alternative would include 170 miles of designated trails for Class I, II, and III vehicles. The classes include everything from motorcycle-width trails to roadways suitable for vehicles as wide as a Jeep.
The third option, which Ochoco National Forest Supervisor Kate Klein supports, adds 101 miles of trails for Classes I and III, which rules out Jeep travel, but includes ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and motorcycle use.
Option four offers the greatest amount of trails with 212 miles available for all three vehicle classes.
People can view the draft EIS online and provide input on the project from now until late March. The comment period for the draft began on Friday, Feb. 8 and concludes 45 days later. Ochoco National Forest staff will also host a public meeting in mid-March to discuss the project. After taking public input, the Forest Service will issue a final EIS and Record of Decision.
“We really encourage people at this point to get into the process if you haven’t already during the scoping process,” Kurtz said.
To view the Ochoco Summit Trail System Project draft EIS, go to http://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/project_list.php?forest=110607.
Comments can be filed electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org or can be mailed to Ochoco National Forest, 3160 N.E. Third St., Prineville, OR 97754.
Ochoco National Forest staff will host a public meeting on the Ochoco Summit Trail System Project on March 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Ochoco National Forest facility.