On August 24th I posted the Forest Service's development of "travel management plans" which would close miles of national forest back country roads currently used by hunters, hikers, bicyclists, birdwatchers, equestrians, off-road vehicle riders, and RV boondockers.
I followed with another post on the 27th about more road closures in a different forest. As more and more forest service managers turn in their management plans, it becomes obvious that the result will be more road closures across several national forests.
In the Wallowa-Whitman NF in eastern Oregon, 9,111 miles of roads in Union, Baker, and Wallowa counties--the third highest number of road miles among all national forests--open up the forest for recreationists throughout the area. But the management plan will close many of these roads, and it has rallied local residents into a high state of alert, with one Wallowa County Commissioner summing it up as "government run amok ..."
Part of the problem is that the areas involved are so vast and so remote that policing or controlling what goes on there is an impossible task, so the rest of us are left with determining the credibility of those on opposite sides.
The idea to develop the travel management plans dates to 2005, when the Forest Service decided to get a handle on damage and noise caused by off-highway vehicles (OHVs)-- which range from ATVs to Jeep-sized four-wheel-drive rigs. They cite the fact that OHVs have increased from 5 million in 1972 to 51 million in 2004, cause trail and road damage, and frighten wildlife. Agency leaders directed each national forest or ranger district to designate roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use depending on type of vehicle and sometimes by the time of year.
On the other hand, in the Wallowa-Whitman, fewer than 1 percent of visitors ride OHVs, said a spokesman for the American Hiking Society. He admits that, while their numbers are few, more control and management of them would help establish the forest as a preferred destination for hikers, equestrians, bird watchers and hunters--the "quiet recreationists."
Reports like recent one that rangers in the White Mountain and Routt National Forests in Western Colorado spend three days hauling out eight mule and horse loads of trash from the back country--and there is more in other parts of the forest. I would hope that we RVers are not even slightly responsible for trashing the forests where we enjoy camping in quiet and solitude.
These management plans are not going to go away, and though both sides agree that something has to be done to protect the forest environment, no acceptable plans or source of funds to manage the forests have been brought forth that doesn't end up being contentious. And if the forest service is successful, we "quiet recreationists" will have a lot fewer opportunities for boondocking.
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