Enjoying our spectacular backyard!
Jack Ash Trail OverviewJacksonville to Ashland Proposed Trail System: “Jack-Ash” Trail

The Jack-Ash Trail is a “general” idea of the route for the proposed SUTA trail system and is very preliminary in nature. The combination of needing BLM approvals and private landowner involvement may mean this route changes substantially over time. SUTA will post revised maps as the route becomes developed. The trail system may also be expanded as short loops are added in key areas to enhance trail use and access or local residents come up with expansions for trails already in existence on either public or private lands.

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Sterling Mine Ditch Trail Se;f Guide Map 100212

Its YOUR Land: Please Send your Comments to BLM

Categories: From the President, News & Updates - Tags: , , , , ,

Dear Friends of the Trails,

As we emailed a few weeks back, the Oregon BLM released its draft resource management plan (RMP) for the lands it manages in western Oregon in April 2015 – found at this link: http://www.blm.gov/or/plans/rmpswesternoregon/    Comments about their proposal are due July 23rd. The final RMP will set the management guidance for BLM lands in Western Oregon over the next decade at least.  These are your public lands.  Your opinions will definitely help shape BLM’s approach.

The primary focus of BLM’s plan is timber production.  Recreation is also a significant part of the proposed management plan.  We encourage you to look at this proposed plan and learn how it might impact your favorite places or the lands near your home.  One important note:  The RMP contains four alternatives (labeled A, B, C, and D).  If you decide to dive into the four volumes in the plan, your comments can take attributes of one alternative and mix it with attributes of another alternative or reject all of the alternatives on a specific issue if you want. In your comments, try and be as specific as possible for why you do or do not like a particular proposal.

As an organization focused on recreational trails, we are offering you our view of the recreational component of the BLM plan.  How recreation (and the forests) are managed on BLM lands – specifically in the Medford District where we live – could make a huge difference to your future enjoyment of these public lands.  The future of such trails as the Pacific Crest Trail, the Sterling Mine Ditch, the proposed Jack-Ash and the Applegate Ridge Trails and many others will be shaped by this plan.

Understanding that most normal mortals do not have time to digest 1400 pages of proposed BLM plans, we have summarized some of the important recreation issues in the plan that you might want to comment on.  We know this is a long email but it is much shorter than reading 1400 pages!  We have highlighted SUTA’s position and provided an explanation. If you are interested in learning more about all components of the plan, we recommend you go to KSWild’s webpage:   http://kswild.org/blmheritageforests

Here are our five points.

  1. Thank BLM for recognizing that the fastest growing recreational activities in Southern Oregon (and the rest of Oregon)  are the wide array of  non-motorized recreation – hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, birdwatching, trail running, snow shoeing and cross country skiing and more and that recreation plays an important role in the region’s economy. Please encourage strong support for non-motorized recreation in the final plan.  In BLM’s failed 2005 effort to create a new resource management plan, the focus was on motorized recreation and almost nothing on non-motorized recreation.  For example, in the 2005 draft RMP there were 13 off-highway vehicle emphasis areas proposed for just the Medford District – covering thousands of acres. Thankfully that plan was never put into effect.  In the current RMP proposal, a much more balanced approach is taken for non-motorized and motorized recreation.  We are delighted to see this shift in management but your comments could re-inforce the need to provide for both non-motorized and motorized recreation in the final plan.  
  1. Encourage designation of recreation management areas covering existing and proposed non-motorized trails.   The creation of RMAs throughout the Medford District and Oregon is of high importance to insure recreational amenities are actively managed and protected.  

BLM has proposed the creation of recreation management areas (RMAs) in order to focus management attention to specific current or future recreational activities such as the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and proposed trails such as the Jack-Ash Trail and the Applegate Ridge Trail.  In the case of trails, the RMA is a corridor along the trail.   Each of the different proposed RMAs will be managed for specific recreational purposes, some are non-motorized only such as the Sterling Mine Ditch trail or PCT, some are large extended recreation management areas for both motorized and non-motorized use or they could include areas such as the BLM camping facilities at Hyatt Lake.  We have three specific recommendations related to RMAs: 

  1. The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, Jack-Ash Trail and Applegate Ridge Trail are included in the several of the alternatives (Alternatives C&D) in the proposed plans as recreation management areas – but voicing your support for designating these trails as RMAs in the final plan would be a huge help.
  2. Along non-motorized trails, these recreation management areas should provide a 250 foot-wide buffer to prevent timber harvesting, new roads, target shooting or mining activities that would adversely affect the quality of your recreational experience.  The PCT, as a national trail, is asking for a ½ mile buffer on each side of the trail where specific management considerations will be required.  We support protected trail buffers. 
  3. We recommend as one of the management principles for RMAs, that areas designated as “lands with wilderness characteristics” such as the Dakabutede area above the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail or the Wellington Butte area that the Applegate Ridge Trail will travel through,  be limited to strictly non-motorized recreational uses.  Under two of the alternatives (C&D) the proposed plan could open the roadless areas above the Sterling Mine Ditch trail to off-highway vehicles.  The proposed RMA covering much of Anderson Butte – called the Anderson Addition RMA – is an extensive area allowing for both motorized and non-motorized recreational use.  While we recognize the need to provide opportunities for both motorized and non-motorized recreation, we do not want to see areas classified as “lands with wilderness characteristics” such as the Dakabutede, opened to future OHV use.  
  4. Urge the BLM in the final RMP to set priorities within each district for completing specific travel management plans and set a schedule within the next three years for completing them.  The proposed plan would limit OHV use to designated (i.e. BLM approved) OHV trails and roads and temporarily to “existing” trails (i.e. user created unauthorized trails) until a travel management plan has been completed.   All existing trails will be reviewed under a travel management plan once the RMP is adopted. All future trails (motorized or non-motorized) must be subject to an environmental review without exception – in order to make sure our future trails are sustainable and do not cause resource damage or create user conflicts. The proposed RMP sets the guidance that a travel management plan will be completed within five years.  However, for the last 10 years, the Medford BLM has promised they would complete a travel management plan to address decisions about its roads and trails but nothing has been started.   The travel management process involves conducting a complete environmental impact study to determine which existing unauthorized trails should be allowed to remain open, which should be modified and which should be eliminated. We strongly urge BLM to include a map in the final RMP of the existing unauthorized trails that will be grandfathered temporarily throughout the Medford district.  In addition, no further user-created (motorized or non-motorized) trails should be permitted after the publication of the draft RMP (April 2015).  In addition, SUTA recommends that a travel management plan for the BLM lands from Anderson Butte to Wagner Gap be listed as a high priority for a completed travel management plan by December 2017.
  5. Target shooting should be limited to designated special recreation areas.  We are delighted that the BLM recognizes in the draft RMP the public safety hazard caused by un-restricted target shooting on BLM lands. While we have no issue with people hunting during the hunting season, target shooting on BLM lands close to populated areas, at trailheads and over trails creates life and death safety challenges.  Furthermore, target shooting is associated with increased trash and resource damage, and destroys the quality of the recreational experience for other users of these public lands.  The proposed plan suggests creating safety zones around trailheads and along trails.  This should apply to both motorized and non-motorized trails and we are thrilled with this first important step to managed target shooting.  However, in light of the heavy concentration of recreation (both motorized and non-motorized) as well as target shooting near populated areas,  such as the Anderson Butte to Wagner Butte ridgeline –  we strongly recommend creating specific safe target practice areas for lands currently experiencing serious public safety concerns due to target shooting.  This will protect public safety and the quality of the recreational experience for everyone.
  6. Timber Harvests should be at sustainable levels, and protect water quality, wildlife and other ecological values on our public lands. Under all alternatives proposed, more timber will be harvested off your public lands.   SUTA supports managing our forests to make them healthier and more fire resilient at an appropriate, sustainable level of timber production.  However, the levels of timber harvests should reflect equal consideration of the impacts on all affected ecological resources and the economic impacts on the robust and growing agricultural and recreational sectors of Oregon’s economy.  In southern Oregon’s dry forests, particular care must be taken to not focus on short-term timber production when the repercussions of clear-cuts or any over-cutting will be felt for many decades.    For multiple ecological reasons, we strongly oppose the re-introduction of clear cutting on federal lands.  And from the perspective of recreation, few people enjoy recreating in a clear-cut.  It should be noted that recreation on BLM lands now provides far more economic value to Oregon’s economy than timber production.

Thank you for taking the time to make sure BLM hears your opinions on how you would like your public resources managed now and into the future.   When you are out enjoying your public lands in the future, you will know that you helped play a role in their management.  Please send in your comments to the Oregon BLM by July 23rd either by mail or email to:

RMPs for Western Oregon
Bureau of Land Management
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, Oregon 97208

Electronic mail (email):

Thank you,

The SUTA Board


Let BLM Know Your Recreation Preferences

Categories: From the President, News & Updates - Tags: ,

Dear Trail Enthusiasts,

As many of you know, the Oregon BLM office has released a draft of its latest management plan for all of the lands it oversees in Western Oregon.  This covers the waterfront such as how they will manage your public forests or provide recreation. This plan, once finalized, will cast the fate of BLM lands for years to come, so weighing in by July 23rd with your comments is extremely important.

On the recreation front there are definitely improvement from past management plans.  Some tough issues are starting to be addressed.   The good news is that the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, the proposed Jack-Ash Trail and the proposed Applegate Ridge Trail are recognized as recreational assets to be managed – at least in some of the various management options presented.

The entire plan is four volumes and rather daunting to look at.  But there are great summaries available from BLM, KS Wild and other sources.

For starters I encourage you to come to one of the public workshops specifically on recreation.  It is being held

June 18th from 6-9 PM

at the Grants Pass High School

at 830 NE 9th St in Grants Pass.

While other recreation workshops will be held around the state, I believe this is the only one for our area.  It is extremely important for BLM to hear from you –  the owner of these public lands –  about your concerns for how these lands will be managed in the future.

If the provision of trails is important to you let them know.  If you would like to see target practice restricted to designated areas, let them know.  If off-highway vehicle activity is an issue you care about, they should hear about it. This plan represents a shift in the approach for recreation from the current plan in that it recognizes the need to manage both OHV use and non-motorized recreation.  A Travel Management plan is proposed to be completed within five years.  This will theoretically detail exactly what OHV and non-motorized trails are allowed, need to be altered and so forth.  But the over-arching guidance for recreation and which lands are managed actively for recreation or not is one part of what the draft RMP (Resource Management Plan) addresses.  So your views are very important.   There are inter-active maps on BLM’s website you can open up and see how the recreation plans under each option will work.  They are quite interesting and there is lots of details associated with each feature shown on the map

There will also be a workshop on the forest and wildlife management proposals on:

June 17th in Medford

from 4-7 PM

 at the Ramada Medford Hotel

at 2250 Biddle Rd. 

Obviously it is forest management that is the crux of the entire plan and will shape the forests we recreate in in the future.  So, if the management of your public lands are important to you…you might want to take some time and voice your views.

For details on the proposed RMP and copies of it – CLICK HERE

For details on all the workshops here is the link:   – CLICK HERE

For interactive maps on recreation, forestry and more:  http://www.blm.gov/or/plans/rmpswesternoregon/interactivemap.php  Click on a location you are interested in on the map on this page and it will open up a map and you can then select this aspect you are interested in such as recreation.  If you mess around some all sorts of management information pops up when you click on a specific name such as Anderson Butte.  Warning – there are a bunch of data errors on these maps so don’t be surprised when you see trail lengths that are wildly inaccurate.  Something happened in their mapping which will be addressed.  But the management information is correct.   

Sorry for the long email but this is a very important issue for our region.  Thank you so much for participating and voicing your thoughts about the proposed resource management plan.

Hope Robertson