Wolf's Den: OHVers still have forest access
Currently, on most of our national forests, you can drive anywhere, road or no road. Once a national forest designates the routes for motorized travel, off-road travel will be prohibited.
The Kaibab National Forest has published the Environmental Assessment for the Williams Ranger District and you have until March 7 to make any comments on the proposal. Go to http://fs.usda.gov/goto/kaibab/projects to review the EA. You can e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Nov. 9, 2005, the Forest Service published final travel management regulations governing off- highway vehicles (OHV) and other motor vehicles on national forests and grasslands. These regulations are referred to as the Travel Management Rule (Rule). The Rule was developed in response to the substantial increase in use of OHVs on National Forest System lands and related damage to forest resources caused by unmanaged OHV use over the past 30 years. The Rule provides for a system of roads, trails and areas that are designated for motor vehicle use. The Rule prohibits the use of motor vehicles off the designated system as well as use of motor vehicles on routes and in areas not consistent with the maintenance of wildlife habitat and ecosystems.
Preferred Alternative 2 in the EA would close 380 miles of road and open 16 miles of new road. In total the Williams Ranger District would have 1,114 miles of open roadway. Alternative 2 would designate 25 miles of roads for vehicles less than 50 inches in width and limit motorized dispersed camping to within 200 feet of designated roadways. It would also limit the use of vehicles to retrieve big game to elk only and only during the warmer elk hunts occurring before the fourth Thursday of October and only between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight, and only within 1 mile of an open road. This is to reduce the loss of meat during early fall elk hunts when warm daytime temperatures can cause more rapid meat spoilage.
Three hundred and eighty miles of roads being closed sounds like a lot. Mathematically, it is a 25 percent reduction. But if you look at a map, the roads being closed, for the most part, are parallel roadways that serve no useful purpose. Most of Arizona's national forests have way too many roads, and even with the closure of 380 miles of roadway, that 1-mile limit from a road to retrieve an elk will accommodate almost all the elk killed in areas where roads exist.
The camping limit of 200 feet should accommodate most motorized campers with an experience that is similar to what we currently have.
The big change will be no more running every square inch of our forests on a quad to find antler sheds. That practice is way out of hand.
The last public meeting on the proposal will be held at the Williams Recreation Center, 301 W. Railroad Ave., Williams, on Saturday, March 6 from 1-3 p.m. For further information, call (928) 635-5614.
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