Group sues over OHV project
Written by KATY NESBITT The (La Grande) Observer December 30, 2009 01:54 pm
Hells Canyon Preservation Council opposes Forest Service plan to build OHV trails in Wallowa County
ENTERPRISE — The Hells Canyon Preservation Council has filed a complaint in federal court challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of the Sled Springs OHV Project.
The preservation council says it is primarily concerned with protecting elk habitat in the area and that vehicles and off-highway vehicles in particular are a leading threat to maintaining productive elk herds.
HCPC is seeking an injunction to stop new OHV trail construction and the conversion of roads to OHV trails. Studies show, according to the council, that OHV use disturbs elk habitat and that numbers have decreased.
“Decline in elk calf recruitment is more susceptible with human interaction,” and included OHV use as a contributing factor, said Jennifer Schwartz, legal counsel for the council.
The council first filed appeals in 2003 and 2004, before the initial decision was released in 2005 by the Wallowa Valley Ranger District in Enterprise. Since the initial release, the Forest Service has conducted an internal appeal process and says it has made changes in the areas sensitive to fish and wildlife. The preservation council and the Nez Perce Tribe filed appeals in the ensuing years.
The impetus for creating an OHV trail management plan was to find an area that would impact the Wallowa Valley Ranger District the least while providing OHV recreation, the Forest Service claims. Another target was to diminish cross-country travel that already exists and keep vehicle use to designated roads and trails only.
“We are seeking a reasonable balance,” said Steve Ellis, supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
The most recent decision was released May 29 by Ken Gebhardt, the ranger of the district. The plan designates roads, trails and areas that are open to motorized use. It closes all undesignated roads, trails and areas to motorized use in order to eliminate cross-country OHV use.
According to Gebhardt’s decision, the trail system season of use would begin in the spring when the ground dries, but not before May 1, and end three days prior to archery season in late August.
The plan would convert 54 miles of existing road to OHV use only and 73 miles of existing road would be open to OHV and full-size vehicle use. Seventeen miles of new OHV trail, three trail bridges and two OHV staging areas would be constructed.
The Council is concerned that adding an OHV trail system puts further pressure on elk habitat already at risk from logging and livestock grazing, Schwartz said.
this is from the ranger districts website
one thing id like to point "Creates 4 elk security areas (From Alternative 3)."