Wheelers face forest limitsPublished Monday, May 15, 2006 11:49:46 AM Central Time
By ANDY HILL
Globe Associate Editor
IRONWOOD -- The Ottawa National Forest will ban cross-country use of all-terrain vehicles on the forest and establish a designated trail system under a new forest plan.
Regional forester Randy Moore, who serves the U.S. Forest Service's eastern region, chose the third of four alternatives proposed for the forest, modified.
"I based my decision to prohibit cross-country travel, and to provide for a recreational designated (off-highway vehicle) road and trail system on the environmental analyses," said Moore. "I believe this decision will provide a balanced approach to OHV use on the Ottawa, with consideration for resource protection and public safety."
Local off-roaders have been working with the Ottawa in anticipation of the change, which the forest plans to enforce in 2007. A new rule on OHV use was established in November, and applies to all national forests.
"The new plan really kind of spelled out the new rule, which was announced in November," said Skip Schulz, of MI-TRALE, a Upper Michigan OHV organization. "We are going to work through the spring of '07 proposing the trails and roads we want designated. We're going to focus on connector trails, and inform hunters of what they need to do."
Hunters have been able to move freely across the forest, and reach remote traditional hunting areas with relative ease.
"The fear a lot of us have is this is going to change how hunters hunt on the Ottawa, but if they're not aware of this they're not going to be part of the process," said Schulz.
The rules and forest plan changes will be a mixed bag. Schulz said the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest already has banned OHV use in some portions of the Chequamegon, but added trails on the Nicolet.
"There's good and there's bad," he said.
The Ottawa will continue to generate wood fiber.
"The 2006 Forest Plan identifies 488,000 acres of land suitable for timber production," said Moore. As the forest matures, harvests can increase. The first decade of the plan includes a conservative 90.1 million board feet per year in Allowable Sale Quantity. The estimated ASQ for the second decade of the plan averages 134 million board feet.
"I believe the 2006 Forest Plan will provide the direction needed to have an effective timber management program that will continue to contribute to the economic stability of the local communities and the wood products industry around the Ottawa and at the national level," said Moore.
According to the foresst service, the plan allows for protection of wilderness areas and endangered species. It continues to provide a wide variety of all-season recreation opportunities.
The forest will continue to partner with snowmobile groups to facilitate the region's trail system.
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