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GIFFORD PINCHOTOFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE ALLIANCE
PO Box 243
Cougar, WA 98616
Gary Johnson, GPOHVA
August 27, 2008
We are the Gifford Pinchot Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance whose purpose is to promote ongoing stewardship of Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation; work collaboratively with local land managers, both private and public, and OHV clubs to facilitate the securing of NOVA grant funding for OHV and mixed-use recreation; and respond to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Travel Management Plan. Our purpose is also to assure the Gifford Pinchot National Forest adheres to its Strategic Communication Plan requiring Public Hearings for public input into the Travel Management Plan and the Motor Vehicle Use Maps. Without public hearings, the Travel Management Plan is not legitimate.
The 59th Washington State legislature found that OHVs provide opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities. They also found that the limited amount of OHV recreation areas presents a challenge for OHV recreational users, natural resource land managers, and private landowners and that many non-highway roads provide opportunities for OHV use to reduce conflicts between users and facilitate responsible OHV recreation. This legislation was approved with the certification of Engrossed House Bill 1003 signed by the Governor of Washington State to amend chapter 46 of the Revised Code of Washington. Rural counties, towns, and communities depend on recreational opportunities to bring tourism and economic sustainability. The OHV industry is currently recording record sales and becoming a major contributor to the Nation’s economy. Of the 2,343 miles of roads in the GPNF, none are available for ATVs; and of the 1,496 miles of trails only 256 miles are available for motorized (motorcycle) use and 30 miles are available to ATVs. HB1003 provides the opportunity to bring parity with non-motorized user access to motorized use of public lands bringing economic stimulus to rural areas surrounding the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
We ask for immediate opening of public hearings for the Travel Management Plan to provide two to three hearings in each of the five counties connected to the Forest (Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, and Skamania). We will meet with and invite the Recreation Planners from each of the five counties to attend the public hearings. We also intend to organize an OHV rally at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Vancouver office in the fall with date to be determined.
We propose addition of a “Roads to Trails Conservation and Recreation Program/Policy” to the Travel Management Plan which would turn durable surface level 1, 2, and 3 roads into trails. This provides the opportunity to reclaim the forest for recreation and wildlife. Use and maintenance of the durable surface roads-to-trails also provides better opportunity to continue use of the roads for fire safety and catastrophic events evacuation routes.
Maintenance and stewardship of these roads, designated as trails for OHV and mixed-use, by private clubs and organizations will lessen the financial impact for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest would then spend their maintenance funding only on level 4 and 5 roads in the forest because the private clubs and organizations will be able to access the National Offhighway Vehicle Activities (NOVA) and National Recreation Trails Program (NRTP) grant funding for recreation maintenance on the level 1, 2, and 3 roads. Stewardship and grant funding could also improve campground maintenance which has been limited by the lack of direct funding. NOVA provides 30% of their grant funds for motorized vehicle recreation, 30% for non-motorized recreation, and 30% for education and enforcement. NOVA funding has been granted in the amount of $3.7 million plus over the entire state every year. NRTP provides 40% of their grant funds for mixed-use recreation, 30% for motorized vehicle recreation, and 30% for non-motorized recreation. Designating roads to mixed-use trails will have greater opportunity for NRTP funding and simply provide a broader range of recreation opportunity for all user groups. NRTP funding has been granted to non-profit organizations for the last 10 years and for the next 10 years will support private organizations to bring in grants, for reclamation work and long-standing environmental problems with the roads system, in the amount of $3.8 million plus over the entire state every year.
We have been working with Tom Savage to identify where to start with the ten areas he identified to be considered for mixed use to provide motorized vehicle recreation on the level 1, 2, and 3 roads. Jones Creek Trail Riders worked with Tom Savage and proposed expansion of the Blue Lake Area. In a meeting with Ron Freeman, and Tom Savage, we determined the Saturday Rock Area provided the most opportunity for OHV use that would also minimize unsanctioned off-road use due to the high ridges with minimal opportunity to leave the road bed. We encourage support for expansion of the Blue Lake Area OHV roads and development of the Saturday Rock Area for mixed-use, including OHVs, and encourage preparation to apply for funding as soon as possible.
We propose developing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide a foundation, which reduces the need for direct supervision of volunteer stewards provided by private clubs and organizations, to alleviate the time consuming and expensive direct supervision practices used by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for volunteers.
We propose changing Gifford Pinchot National Forest’s policy to allow our suggested reclamation and stewardship program to create quality recreation and wildlife habitat. Private clubs and organizations may use grant funding to maintain and provide reclamation of the old logging roads to trails mitigating the erosion problems created by inadequate/inappropriate ditching and culvert use. Private timber companies are required to pull culverts on all secondary roads and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest could adhere to the same standard with grant funding and volunteer support from private clubs and organizations. We suggest removal of culverts and replacing with hard rock crossings returning stream beds to normal flow, creating environmental improvement by mitigating erosion through more natural water flow. Reclamation through hydro-seeding would also improve erosion and wildlife habitat. Connecting timber harvests to recreation, as part of the Timber Plan, would allow more immediate reclamation and quality recreation.
We propose use of private clubs and organizations for stewarding the forest by also providing education and peer pressure for self-policing. Right now the public is using and misusing the entire forest for everything and anything without oversight or enforcement of appropriate use of the forest because the Gifford Pinchot National Forest does not have adequate funding to support education and enforcement.
Our concerns for the way Gifford Pinchot National Forest lands are currently managed includes:
- Quads/ATVs are being excluded from use of existing motorized vehicle trails and non-highway roads.
- Use seasons should be considered for legitimate reasons such as elk calving or excessive snow depth but closing access to OHVs as an arbitrary categorical exclusion seems collaborative with extremist special interest groups.
- In The Columbian newspaper article, dated April 24, 2008 titled Gifford Pinchot Task Force Proposes 20-year Forest Restoration Plan, Acting Forest Supervisor Lynn Burditt stated “What Emily’s group (Gifford Pinchot Task Force) would like is that we not allow any ORVs, but that is a legitimate use and needs to be managed properly.” and we encourage lifting of the ATV categorical exclusion for use of non-highway roads.
- Requests for OHV access to these roads are frequently stopped or stalled due to the expectation that every request requires engineering/NEPA/SEPA studies even though these roads have already passed those considerations for logging use.
- We propose changing this policy to allow reclamation of level 1, 2, and 3 roads to trails, without additional expensive studies stalling or stopping recreation opportunities, to create quality family recreation and improved wildlife habitat.
- We have spent time meeting with Gifford Pinchot staff who express interest in our offers to work jointly with them on volunteer staffing, stewardship, trail maintenance, and grants to explore mutually acceptable riding opportunities yet fail to use the authority provided them in the Strategic Communication Plan to make decisions, specifically, “Designation decisions will be made by forest supervisors or district rangers working closely with local communities, motorized and non-motorized recreation groups, and other interested parties.” We have been told to wait until 2010 when the new Travel Management Plan is complete. Again, there seems to be no intent to involve the public in developing the Travel Management Plan and the current culture in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest seems to prefer specific exclusion of ATVs.
- Local ATV dealers report selling ATVs faster than they can stock them. This supports broader opportunities for appropriate ATV use areas before environmentally sensitive areas become devastated by those accessing the vast Gifford Pinchot forest without knowledge of or opportunity for places to ride.
In summary, the Gifford Pinchot Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance is dedicated to promoting and preserving OHV access in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to provide families opportunities for their individual pursuit of legitimate outdoor recreational happiness on our public lands. We look forward to working jointly with you to get some good outcomes.
Gary JohnsonGPOHVA Chairsurvar@ywave.com
Mike HaydenGPOHVA Co-Chairmbhayden@tds.net
Ron KatzerGPOHVA Co-Chairkatzkuntry@tds.net
Barbara VertzGPOHVA Secretarydogcreekcougar@tds.net
Sherie WeisserGPOHVA Treasurerdsweisser@gmail.com
Attachments: Letters of Support, Areas to Consider for Mixed Use Map
cc: Alliances:Bob Schlecht, Bob’s Sporting Goods Larry Smith, Cispus Basin ORV Mike Hayden, Cougar Area Trail Seekers- President Dan Caughlin, Jones Creek Trail Riders Association President Chad Hamel, Northwest Quadriders President Aaron Peterson, Outdoor Toy Store Scott McNew, Over The Bars Gang Crystal Crowder, Pistons Wild President Dave Lipinski, Power Sports Centralia, Mud Slingers President Joe Day, Rain City Power Sports Name, River City MC President Bill Hutchens, SW Washington All Terrain President Rick Dahl, Washington Off Highway Vehicles Association President Joseph Zarelli, Senator Dan Sweeker, Senator Brian Baird, Congressman Gary Alexander, State Representative Richard Debolt, State Representative Jamie Hererra, State Representative Ed Orcutt, State Representative Dan George, Mayor of Morton KGW Radio KXL Radio Marc Boldt, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris, Clark County Commissioner Kathleen Johnson, Cowlitz County Commissioner George Raiter, Cowlitz County Commissioner Axel Swanson, Cowlitz County Commissioner Cris McEwin, Executive Secretary to Klickitat County Commissioners Ron Averill, Lewis County Commissioner Richard Graham, Lewis County Commissioner Lee Grose, Lewis County Commissioner Paul Pearce, Skamania County Commissioner JR Richardson, Skamania County Commissioner Jamie Tolfree, Skamania County Commissioner Karen Witherspoon, Skamania County Dept. of Planning & Community Development Buddy Rose, Devall Publishing Kathy Durbin, The Columbian Tom Paulu, The Daily NewsSports Desk Channel 2 NewsSports Desk Channel 6 NewsSports Desk Channel 8 NewsSports Desk Chanel 12 News