Its YOUR Land: Please Send your Comments to BLM

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):
blm_or_rmpwo_comments@blm.gov

Thank you,

The SUTA Board

 

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