Thursday, May 29, 2008

Keep Trails for Hikers -- not ATVs or ORVs!

From the WTA --

Help Ensure that Hikers' Concerns About ORV Use are Heard!

As you may know, national forests around the country are deciding which routes they're going to designate for off road vehicle (ORV) use and which ones they're going to close. The United States Senate has decided to enter the fray by scheduling an oversight hearing in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 5.

You can help protect our trails by encouraging Senator Cantwell to attend this important hearing and stand-up for the rights of hikers.

ORV Travel Management was initiated after former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth identified unmanaged recreation as one of the four major threats to national forests in 2004. The planning rule requires each forest to identify a system of authorized ORV routes, publish the system in map form, and then close all unauthorized routes and ban cross-country travel. Known as the OHV Rule, this process has played out with greater and lesser degrees of success. For example, when the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest released its draft planning maps, hikers had a number of concerns, including the following:
  • In one case - the Foggy Dew Ridge Trail - one of the few non-motorized routes in the Chelan-Sawtooth Area was designated for dirtbike use on the recommendation of one ORV enthusiast.
  • In a number of instances, roads that reached wilderness-accessing trailheads were opened to ORV traffic.
Overall, many ranger districts seemed to view the process as aimed at increasing legal ORV opportunities rather than controlling some of the most rampant abuses on their lands. This is in a climate in which funds to enforce the rules on legal ORV routes are very limited, which begs the question of why a national forest would want to increase its ORV capacity.

The oversight hearing will give Senators an opportunity to hear testimony from people representing conservation interests and quiet recreation users as well as those supporting ORV proliferation. It is a good start to asking some these important questions about the future on ORV use on the trails we love.

What you can do
Contact Senator Maria Cantwell's office and urge her to attend the hearing and stand up for the rights of hikes. Senators have very busy schedules and cannot always attend every scheduled hearing. This one, however is very important to hikers. Senator Cantwell has a good track record on public lands. We are sure she will be a strong advocate for the interests of our community, but we need to make sure she hears from us.

You can email Senator Cantwell
or you can call her DC office at (202) 224-3441.

When you call or email her office, be sure to thank her for everything she has done on behalf of Washington's national forests and the people who love them.
Then urge her to continue the good work, by playing an active role at the Energy and Natural Resources oversight hearing on June 5.

Thank you for speaking out for hikers!