Latest from The Spokesman-Review
PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest is moving ahead with a 10- to 15-year project to plan off-road vehicle trails and relocate camping areas to serve the motorized trail groups while rehabilitating the impacts illegal OHV use has had on streams, meadows and wildlife habitat.
- A timeline of documents regarding the South End Project has been posted on the forest website.
The Decision Notice describes the selected alternative (Alternative 3) and provides the rationale of why the Forest Service selected this alternative. The chosen alternative includes designation of new off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes, restoration of campsites currently causing resource damage, development of parking areas, and an adjustment of the boundaries of management areas in the Colville National Forest Plan.
“This decision will designate a system of roads and trails that create quality loops, connects communities, and provides for better access and increased opportunities for off-highway vehicles, while protecting natural and cultural resources,” said Laura Jo West, Colville National Forest Supervisor. “Once the new routes are added to the Colville National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map they will be a great addition to ride and enjoy.”
- See my recent post regarding mudding and other illegal motorized use issues the forest is trying to confront.
- See my story about a Memorial Day enforcement patrol that confronted illegal OHV use on the south end of the forest.
The project area includes all or parts of Ruby, Cusick, Tacoma, Twelvemile, Monaghan, Indian, Addy, Leslie, Bayley, Chewelah, Thomason, Cottonwood, Smalle, Winchester and Calispell creek drainages on the Colville National Forest northwest of Newport.
"With such a large project area and a number of restoration efforts needed this project will be phased in over the next 15 years," said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman. "Each potential route requires a safety analysis and a one year monitoring period to ensure there is no unauthorized use before being officially designated as open on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).
- Go here to see details of the forests travel management plan and view the MVUM and maps.
It is important to understand that until some important restoration and safety analysis work can be completed, the new routes will not be open to the public.
An implementation team will meet twice each year. In the spring, they will determine the roads to be added in the following year. During the summer, each new route will undergo a safety evaluation and be surveyed for user created OHV routes. In the fall, they will review monitoring, and roads that meet the criteria will be put on the MVUM for the following year. To be put on the MVUM, a route must not have any new user-created OHV routes. The first group of routes to be designated will connect the communities of Chewelah, Cusick, and Usk.
In addition to the new routes, an important restoration effort at Phillips Lake will help restore some previous damage. During the restoration of Phillips Lake, there will be walk-in access only. A gate will be placed on the road into the lake and limited parking available. The restoration includes blocking all user created OHV trails, blocking the wetland areas with rocks, and defining parking and camping areas.
The Forest is working towards restoration of campsites to define parking and reduce compacted areas. Work in Ruby, Tacoma, Cusick, and Calispell is expected to occur next summer with the goal of designated camping along high use areas.
The OHV Ambassador program is being developed with interested parties. Formal agreements are being developed. The OHV Ambassador program involves volunteers riding through the area and interacting with visitors to keep the OHV experience enjoyable.
FORESTS – The Colville National Forest is seeking comments on a revised proposal to regulate dispersed camping and designate and expand roads and trails open to motorized recreation.
Comments are due by the end of August on the South End Project scoping notice and plans for the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages).
- See the revised proposals in the document attached to this post.
The original plan was appealed last winter by conservation groups.
The project goals include designating an expanded system of routes for motor vehicle use.
PUBLIC LANDS – Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West has withdrawn the South End Motor Vehicle Project enacted in November after years of planning to guide off-highway vehicle use.
This decision was appealed in January by Conservation Northwest, the Lands Council, and the Kettle Range Conservation Group.
West withdrew the project after the appeal was reviewed by the Regional Forester in Missoula. No timeline has been set for rewriting the project that would allow off-road vehicle riders to establish more legal riding routes on the south half of the 1.1 million acre forest.
The conservation groups appealed primarily on the basis that the project rewarded groups who illegally pioneered new trails in national forest areas where off-road travel had been prohibited.
"The South End project is an excellent project,” West said in a written statement. “Not only does it provide a wonderful network of family-friendly OHV routes that connect communities, it provides for the rehabilitation of heavily impacted campsites, stream corridors, and illegal motorized trails.
“I withdrew the decision so that we can supplement our analysis of the project to make sure the decision to proceed is based on solid rationale that fully considers the impact to other resources."