New forest plan bans cross-country motorized travel - Problems arise for hunters seeking remoteness

 

(Note: For those that enjoy recreational access, this -- "...81,563 responses representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, showed support for designated areas of motor use" -- is very encouraging. Recreationists seem to "get it" and have learned the power of networking and getting involved in one another's issues. No matter that a recreationist in Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Maine, southern California, or Alaska may never recreate in northern Michigan, also known as the "UP," "Yoop" or Upper Peninsula -- they all understand and step up to the plate for their fellow recreationists. There's a very good lesson to be learned here: Farmers, loggers, miners, and ranchers should muster such numbers and involvement when their property rights, custom and culture come under attack!)

 

"Dad was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in 1971. He had pins in his leg ... all kinds of things. We kind of got it (an ATV) to help him." - Doug Williams

 

 

By Laura Kirby, DMG Writer lkirby@mininggazette.com or 906-483-2215

The Daily Mining Gazette

P.O. Box 368

Houghton, Michigan 49931

800-682-7607 or 906-482-1500; editorial 906-483-2210

Fax: 906-482-2726

http://www.mininggazette.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: bsargent@mininggazette.com

 


Watersmeet, Michigan - Doug Williams isn't one of those souped-up ATV riders, he said.

While out-of-town riders in matching florescent suits and goggles tear up the trails around him, the 44-year-old Williams is more content in an old plaid hunting coat, riding some old goat trail to find the perfect little crick to fish for bluegills, or the perfect bear or beaver trapping nook.

We've been using the area since the early 80s, Williams says of National Forest Service/Ottawa National Forest lands near his home between Watersmeet and Marinette. The first time I came here was in 1968 with my father. Dad was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in 1971. He had pins in his leg ... all kinds of things. We kind of got it (an ATV) to help him.

Just last Saturday, Williams took sons Brandon and Travis for a fishing trip on his Honda 400cc.

We took the four wheeler, took our fishing reels, and followed a little trail through the forest, he said.

Ten year-old daughter Chelsea enjoys riding on the ATV, and wife Lisa likes it so much she got her own.

But after new National Forest rules come into effect soon, weekend ATV rides for the Williams family won't be the same.

A part of the revised 2006 National Forest Plan known as the Travel Management Rule will soon prohibit the use of ATVs, OHVs, OHMs and ORVs on any road, route, or trail in the National Forest that is not designated for motorized use.

It will not apply to snowmobiles.

The change will cover about 1 million acres of Ottawa National Forest land spread throughout the Western Upper Peninsula, where forest officials like Darla Lenz, the district ranger for Ontonagon has invited users to nominate their favorite trails for designation so they can stay open.

The gesture is a pointless one for occasional off the beaten path hunters like Williams, who need free rein of the forest, away from main routes, he said.

If you're going in to beaver trap, these are remote areas, he said. We basically use ATVs on a necessity basis. Sure, the pioneers dragged their beaver out without [them]. But they do save your back.

First unveiled by the U.S. Forest Service in November, the travel management plan is designed to forge a sustainable system of routes and areas designated for motorized use, according to a press release issued at the time. More than 200,000 miles of forest roads, and 36,000 miles of trails are currently open to off highway vehicles in the Ottawa.

The plan was prompted by a proposal in the 2004 Federal Register, where 81,563 responses representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, showed support for designated areas of motor use.

Designation of trails to stay open should take about four years for all 155 national forests and grasslands. Williams said he thinks that locally, it means that low impact, unintrusive ATV riders are paying the price for damage by nonchalant users. Increasing numbers of groups from Wisconsin or southern Michigan tend to plough through forest lands, after getting loaded up on alcohol.

Its a very difficult balancing act when you're managing millions of acres for thousands of people with varying interests, said Tom Ford, an assistant forest supervisor, at the forest service Ironwood office, during a heated public hearing on the plan in Ontonagon County. The point ... is to prevent damage. Its not to prevent ATV use, its to manage ATV use.

We'd be very interested in looking at any routes that you propose, he told a crowd of more than one hundred local off-roaders gathered at the Trout Creek Centennial hall in April.

During the meeting, Ontonagon Chamber of Commerce President Vikki James said a key consideration in balancing opinions is that in other parts of the national forest system throughout the U.S., Forest Service officials probably face more pressure from environmental groups like Greenpeace, and taxpayers concerned by damage caused by motor vehicles.

The chamber is interested in having a good looking forest that brings tourist dollars in, she said during the meeting, while acknowledging that ATV riders also are a source of tourist dollars.

To occasional off the beaten path hunters like Williams, the nomination of routes is a silly thing.

I go wherever the fishing, game, cutting or trapping takes me. I don't have any established routes, he said. Most bear hunting or deer hunting stands are one and a half to two miles into the forest, which doesn't sound like a lot but if you're carrying a pack basket, by the time you get there, you're soaking wet and drenched.

Williams, who also attended the meeting at Trout Creek, was asked to point out some potential routes for designation, but didn't really want to invite the whole of Michigan on every little goat trail in Gogebic county, he said.

Opinions like those of Williams, or the different perspectives heard at meetings will be beneficial in designing the trail system, according to Lisa Klaus a public affairs officer at the Ottawa National Forest in Ironwood.

Klaus added there would be opportunities for those types of remote explorers, in the system.

Those who want to be included on a mailing list should call any Forest Service office, Klaus said. In addition, if ATV riders would like to see specific trails become designated and therefore stay open under the new rule, they can write a letter with recommendations to any Forest Service department, she said.


Copyright 2006, Daily Mining Gazette.

http://www.mininggazette.com/stories/articles.asp?articleID=2263

 

Additional related, recommended reading:

 

Local ATV riders react to Forest Plan

 

 

June 7, 2006

 

By Laura Kirby, DMG Writer lkirby@mininggazette.com or 906-483-2215

The Daily Mining Gazette

P.O. Box 368

Houghton, Michigan 49931

800-682-7607 or 906-482-1500; editorial 906-483-2210

Fax: 906-482-2726

http://www.mininggazette.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: bsargent@mininggazette.com

 

Ontonagon, Michigan - While most ATV riders across the Upper Peninsula have only recently learned about the National Forest Services Travel Management Plan, one group of local sportsmen in Ontonagon have been working to keep their favorite trails open since the Forest Service unveiled the new rule in 2005.

The national policy, to be implemented over the next four years, will close trails to off-road vehicles unless they are specifically designated for motor use.

To be designated, trails have to be nominated by the public, explained head of the Mi-TRALE, Skip Schulz.

What we're currently working on in the Ottawa [National Forest] is called the Pioneer Trail, from Bergland to Rockland, said Schulz, who has counted [attended] numerous meetings with the Forest Service already.

The trail -- built for ATVs by the Michigan National Guard, Army Reserve, Forest Service and DNR during the late 1990s -- had hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on it, but was never officially opened to motorized use and eventually became a snowmobile trail, Schulz said.

Mi-TRALE face an uphill battle with the Pioneer, since even if opened by local forest officials, it will have to become designated at the state level to stay open under the new travel management plan.

This year we want to get it opened; then next year we want to get it designated, he said.

Were up against the clock. The problem is we have other trails that we're starting from ground zero, because of this federal rule.

Mi-TRALE will submit an overall proposal to the Forest Service by fall, including recommendations that ... the old Bungalow Road from Watersmeet to Bruce Crossing stays open, and that Forest Highway 630 be opened up to the Potato Farm Road in Ontonagon County as a designated trail.

Hunters will be impacted by the rule, since traditionally they've made their own trails, Schulz said.

For years they have never ridden roads and trails, they make their own, he said.

Most important is that all off-roaders throughout the Upper Peninsula get in touch with either a group like themselves, or the Forest Service so their favorite trails can stay open.

Were not going to be able to take a hunter to his blind anymore. If they don't tell us what roads to propose, they're not going to be 20 feet from their blinds -- they're going to be a mile, he said.

Baraga, Ontonagon, the whole western U.P. ... We need to know what other people want us to propose, we've got to propose as many as we can.

Contact MI-TRALE at 906-884-9668.

 

Copyright 2006, Daily Mining Gazette.

http://www.mininggazette.com/stories/articles.asp?articleID=2264