Riley Ranch Lawsuit-Oregon Dunes
Little blurb in last nights local paper that a conservation group filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court, Eugene, seeking to stop an access route from Coos County's Riley Ranch Park (north of Coos Bay and south of Spinreel at the Oregon Dunes NRA). This route will provide access from the park to the dunes proper. Park area was purchased with State ATV money. So far the big holdup is getting across the RR tracks, but an overhead bridge route is being planned.
They say the route goes through a "sensitive area that is now closed to motorized use".
Posted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:00 pm Post subject: Oregon Dunes NRA Issue
Wildlands CPR and Four Other Groups Seek Protection for Oregon Dunes
Conservation Groups Sue to Protect Roadless Area
December 7, 2009
Five environmental groups jointly filed a lawsuit today against the United States Forest Service to stop construction of a new road for off-road vehicles (ORVs) in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (Oregon Dunes). The lawsuit challenges the Forest Service’s approval of the “Riley Ranch Access Project,” which involves building a 14- to 24-foot wide motor vehicle route through the heart of both an Inventoried Roadless Area and a section of the Oregon Dunes that has long been closed to motor vehicle use. The groups are particularly concerned that the new road will exacerbate existing problems with unlawful ORV riding within the dunes’ unique and highly sensitive habitats.
“The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is something to truly behold,” says Josh Laughlin of Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands. “We have a world-class treasure right here in our backyard that is being seriously damaged by reckless and illegal ORV activity. It is time to draw a line in the sand.”
“Going to the Oregon Dunes is like stepping into another world,” says Francis Eatherington of Roseburg-based Umpqua Watersheds. “Unfortunately, it’s becoming rare to experience this incredible place without hearing the constant buzz of engines and seeing tiretracks driven through sensitive and protected areas. Things have gotten out of hand, and the Forest Service isn’t doing anything about it.”
The Oregon Dunes is the most extensive and unique expanse of sand dunes along the Pacific Coast in all of North America. The area contains rare geologic features found nowhere else in the world, several “globally significant plant communities,” five sensitive plant species, critical habitat for the snowy plover, a threatened shorebird, and amazing opportunities for hikers and bird watchers. The Oregon Dunes was established by an Act of Congress in 1972 for “public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment” and for “the conservation of scenic, scientific, historic, and other values contributing to pubic enjoyment.”
“The Oregon Dunes already contain thousands of acres open to ORVs,” says Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Creating a new road in the roadless area is not necessary or in the public interest.”
Since 2004, the Forest Service and County Sheriff have documented increasing “lawlessness” and “gang-like mentality” among groups of OHV riders within the Oregon Dunes. The rowdy culture has forced the Forest Service to conclude that it is unsafe for 3 or 4 armed law enforcement officers, much less unarmed agency employees, to make courtesy or enforcement contacts, even during daylight hours.
"The Forest Service should not expand the motorized trail system unless it is able to protect the globally rare dunes ecosystems from the unlawful ORV use that is already going on," says Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild, "The Forest Service is unable to do their job now, yet they want to grow the problem by expanding the trail system in sensitive areas."
“The Forest Service needs to step up and give these serious issues the attention they deserve,” says Sarah Peters of Wildlands CPR. “The Oregon Dunes should not be treated as if it is just for motorized users, but should be managed to preserve and protect wildlife habitat, as well as nonmotorized recreation opportunities.”
The parties are represented in the litigation by Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center and Dan Kruse of Cascadia Wildlands.
For more information, contact:
Francis Eatherington, Umpqua Watersheds: (541) 643-1309
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands: (541) 434-1463
Sarah Peters, Wildlands CPR: (406) 543-9551
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild: (541) 344-0675
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity: (503) 484-7495
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center: (503) 914-1323
Suit disputes plan for ATV road |
A Forest Service idea for a dunes access road draws conservationists’ objections
By Mark Baker
Appeared in print: Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009
NORTH BEND — Several environmental groups, including Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene, are suing the U.S. Forest Service over a proposed mile-long access road the agency wants to build for off-highway and all-terrain vehicles such as dune buggies and Jeeps in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area about six miles north of North Bend.
Cascadia Wildlands, Umpqua Watersheds of Roseburg, Wildlands CPR of Missoula, Mont., Oregon Wild and the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Eugene against the Forest Service and the rock road proposed last spring by one of its districts, the Siuslaw National Forest, which manages the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area that stretches from Florence to Coos Bay.
Illegal off-road vehicle drivers have already effectively carved the roadway through the federal land off Highway 101, taking short cuts to the coastal dunes, said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands.
“The road is basically already there because of past illegal activity,” Laughlin said. Off-highway vehicle — OHV — users drive across federal lands between the 135-acre Coos County-operated Riley Ranch County Park — billed as a mecca for ATV users when it opened in 2006 — near the community of Hauser, about six miles north of North Bend, and the sand dunes.
“We don’t have a problem with sanctioning OHV use in designated areas,” Laughlin said. “But this area has been trashed by illegal use. And we believe it’s in the best interest of Oregonians to protect the sensitive wildlife and vegetation in this area.”
The tract where the road would run had never been designated for OHV and ATV use in the Forest Service’s long-standing rules for the area, so that agency had to go in and change the designation in order to approve the road.
The environmental groups argue that the proposed road is improper because it would go through a federal designated roadless area, a category of area where the federal government has banned new road construction.
The Forest Service approved the road in April, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed in June, but the Forest Service denied the appeal in July. The federal agency has said the new road is permissable in an official roadless area because the ban on new roads applies only to logging roads intended to harvest timber, not to roads for other vehicles.
Joni Quarnstrom, a spokeswoman with the Siuslaw National Forest in Corvallis, would not comment on the lawsuit, other than to say the building of the road will depend on the lawsuit’s outcome. She said the access road would not be built on a route currently taken by OHV users, but “would largely follow a road created when the area was private land.”
Members of Oregon Wild, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting Oregon lands, wildlife and waters, and the Center for Biological Diversity, regularly use the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area for hiking, recreation and bird watching, according to the lawsuit.
The proposed road is “very upsetting to a lot of people,” said Sarah Jane Brown, an attorney with the Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center, which is representing the environmental groups. By building the road, the Forest Service would be legitimizing illegal OHV activity, she said.
The 31,500-acre Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area already has 7,350 acres designated for use by off-road vehicles, Laughlin said.
The 1994 Oregon Dunes Management Plan says that OHV routes had to be designated within three years of the plan’s approval, or not at all, according to the lawsuit. The federal agency’s new designation of the land at this late date is illegal, the lawsuit alleges.
The Forest Service plans to build the road and also has authorized construction of a bridge to take vehicles over a railroad track that lies about halfway along the proposed route, the lawsuit says. The Forest Service said one benefit of the bridge is that it would be safer for OHV users who have created their own dangerous routes across the railroad tracks.
The road project violates National Environmental Policy Act by failing to disclose and analyze the impacts of the project, according to the lawsuit. “We just want the existing plan honored,” Laughlin said. The road “will further exacerbate illegal activity and further trash this globally recognized resource. I think it’s important to remember that the awe-inspiring dunes are one of the things that makes Oregon special. We believe it’s time to draw a line in the sand.”
I would say thanks for posting but now youve got me all pissed this morning already. I can't believe some of the stupid stuff that people say sometimes. Sounds to me like the planned road was basically an improvement of a road that was there already before it became a "roadless" area. So if that road was there before it should never have become federally designated "roadless" therefore someone needs to sue to get the roadless area thrown out or at least amended to areas that do not include roads.
This route will be primarily a new one. The existing one does get close to a lake/pond and some wet areas, and will be closed and only available for hiking and equestrian use (which can cause more problems than our rigs, but the quads and bikes can really sway the equation with what they can do).
Roadless areas (IRA's) have been around since the early/mid 70's (RARE I & II). Under the formula, the area does not have to be completely without roads. The area that Creek n Trail is run in, is an IRA, even though a very old road runs through from O'Brien to Smith River on the coast, as well as the McGrew and many olther timber and mining roads. Most of these are on the maps, and are classified roads, and some are user created. McGrew is actually still carried on the books as a road, even though it is treated as a trail for ost everyday purposes.
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