Ecosystem Conservation / Travel Plan

What We Do: Ecosystem Conservation / Travel Plan

Travel Management Planning for Wallowa Whitman National Forest

 

ATV tracks through a high elevation meadow in the Elkhorns.Photo: Greg Dyson

ATV tracks through a high elevation meadow in the Elkhorns.
Photo: Greg Dyson

In 2004 the Chief of the Forest Service identified unmanaged motorized recreation as one of the four greatest threats to National Forest and Grasslands. To address the issue the Forest Service developed a national strategy to evaluate recreational motor vehicle use on National Forest Service lands. This strategy was developed to resolve issues such as damage to wetlands, wildlife habitat, soils, distribution of wildlife, spread of noxious weeds and conflicts between recreational users.

HCPC supports the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s proposed Travel Management Plan, limiting designated routes to not include user-created trails, prohibiting game retrieval off roads and trails, and closing all motorized use on all “closed” roads, otherwise known as maintenance Level 1 roads. (Despite supposedly being closed, ATVs have been allowed to use these “Level 1″ roads in the past.) However, we have recommended to the forest that it goes even further and close more than just these “Level 1″ roads, looking at the entire road network for the roads that cause the greatest impact to wildlife, native plants, water quality and non-motorized recreation.

A landscape approach that focuses on important areas needing protection from motorized use needs to be identified. Critical winter and summer range for game species, late successional (old growth) reserves, wildlife corridors, known locations of Threatened and Endangered species, anadromous and wild native trout watersheds, highly erodible and otherwise fragile soils, municipal watersheds, weed spread and other cumulative impacts are some of the issues that need to be addressed and mapped. Motorized use in these high resource value areas is inappropriate and can degrade valuable natural resources.

According to the Wallowa Whitman National Forest 2004 visitor survey, less than 11 percent of visitors use an OHV and less than 1 percent use OHV as their main activity. From the public’s viewpoint, catering to the small special interest group is inappropriate for many reasons: OHV use is in conflict with many other users on the forest; OHV trail systems basically exclude most of the public from the area due to noise, dirty air, degraded natural resources including water and wildlife and weed spread; OHV use will greatly change the condition of these areas; and wildfires are more likely to be started by humans or OHV machines, litter will increase, poaching is likely to be increased and wildlife will avoid the area. Finding an appropriate balance of uses is important for future public lands management.

The Wallowa-Whitman NF has over 9,000 miles of roads on 2.3 million acres, making it one of the most heavily roaded Forests anywhere in the US. Most Forests of comparable size have less than half the miles of road than the Wallowa Whitman National Forest.

HCPC’s Natural Heritage Alternative (pdf) submitted to the Wallowa-Whitman for consideration in their Travel Plan process, focusing on the needs of wildlife, native plants and water quality.

Wallowa-Whitman Travel Plan
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w/recreation/ohv/ohv-rule.shtml

Wallowa-Whitman NF Roads Analysis
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w/projects/roads-analysis/roads-analysis-draft.pdf (pdf)

The draft of the EIS for travel planning is due out in the spring of 2009. Comments from the public will be taken at that time, and we will need your involvement to help convince the Wallowa-Whitman NF to do the right thing.