some of the names are wrong but heres a newspaper article from the work day.
Scars left by vandals on U.S. Forest Service land on Mount Emily should heal up nicely, thanks to a group of four-wheel drive enthusiasts who want people to think the best, not the worst, of their sport.
Members of the Northeast Oregon Four Wheelers showed up in force on Three Cabin Ridge Friday, spreading seed and mulch over land that was extensively damaged last spring by vandals in four-wheel drive rigs.
The club came out with one thing in mind: to show the community that the majority of people taking all-terrain, four-wheel drive vehicles into the mountains do respect the land.
“It’s important for us to set the tone for four-wheelers,” said club member Jamie Wilson. “The more damage is done, the more the state will want to close down Class II trails.”
Last April, the Forest Service discovered that particularly heavy damage had been done in the Robbs Hill-Three Cabin Ridge area of Mount Emily.
In about a dozen places, drivers out for a “good time” had taken their rigs into open meadows, spun their wheels in the mud and cut gashes that in some spots were more than two-feet deep.
Kurt Wiedenmann, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s La Grande district ranger, was outraged. In a newspaper article, he detailed the damage and warned that the Forest Service would institute an emergency closure of the area if the vandalism didn’t stop.
Wiedenmann said Friday that public reaction was swift and overwhelmingly positive. The Forest Service and local law enforcement received numerous tips. In one case, a juvenile four-wheeler was caught in the act of tearing up the land, prosecuted and fined.
At least one of the calls was about undoing damage.
The Northeast Oregon Four Wheelers, made up of people who use Class II all-terrain vehicles — four-wheel drive trucks — formed last November.
Today, the group boasts about 15 members in cities from Hermiston to Ontario. They’ve come together to share experiences and protect their right to enjoy their hobby.
“A bunch of us met over the Internet and got to talking. There wasn’t a club, so we started one,” said member Colton Wiseman, Ontario.
In La Grande, club member Leslie Garoutte read the newspaper article. After conferring with club members, she contacted Wiedenmann with an offer to help with the rehabilitation.
She said the idea was to show that most four-wheel enthusiasts are good land stewards.
“Our club was in the early stages. We knew about the damage and doing this for community service was something we were all into,” she said.
Friday’s work was supervised by Penny Hall, a botanist for the Wallowa-Whitman. As club members loaded up sacks of seed and carried them to the damaged areas, she talked a little about the restoration effort.
She said ruts had been filled in with woody debris earlier. Club members were tasked with spreading locally-collected seed, and laying down straw for mulch.
“By the end of next summer we should see some above-ground growth,” Hall said. “Eventually it will all blend in.”
Wiedenmann said that the Forest Service hasn’t seen much more damage in the area since last spring. Though he did not call an emergency closure, a gate was installed at Forest Service Roads 8405 and 035 and could be locked during wet seasons if problems continue.
“We haven’t had any problems since. We’re monitoring it and if there’s indication of a lot of mudding, we’ll do an emergency closure,” he said.
He said the Forest Service greatly appreciates the help from the club.
“It’s a project that’s been a long time in the making. They use the area and doing this is important to them,” he said.
North East Oregon 4 Wheelers, PR officer
MEMBER OF: blue ribbon coalition, tread lightly,