Dunes plan takes next step

2012-11-15T09:00:00Z Dunes plan takes next stepBy Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
November 15, 2012 9:00 am  • 

Environmental impact statement goes out for comment

A plan to close some unauthorized off-road vehicle trails in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is taking another step toward reality with the release of a draft environmental impact statement.

The Siuslaw National Forest has put the 150-page document out for public comment, and it will review its plans for the dunes at an open house in Florence this weekend. The comment period runs through Dec. 10.

With 29,000 acres stretching from Florence to North Bend along the Oregon coast, the recreation area is a popular playground for riders of dirt bikes, dune buggies and four-wheelers, lumped together in Forest Service nomenclature as off-highway vehicles, or OHVs. It also draws hikers, beachcombers and other nonmotorized recreationists, and portions of the dunes are marked off for western snowy plover habitat and other protected purposes.

Some 5,930 acres of open sand has been set aside for OHV riding, and there’s another 4,455 acres of vegetated areas where riding is allowed on 34 miles of designated trails.

Over the years, however, riders have carved out a 135-mile web of trails through the vegetated section of the dunes, and now the Forest Service is cracking down on riding in unauthorized areas.

The designated routes plan aims at something of a compromise that would likely include a modest expansion of the authorized trail network and the open riding areas while enforcing rules against taking motorized recreation out of bounds.

While a final decision has not yet been made, none of the alternatives being considered would shrink the official on- or off-trail areas now open to riders.

“Those 34 miles (of trails) currently designated, nothing is happening to those,” stressed Angie Morris, a recreation planner with the Siuslaw National Forest. “There’s no negative impact to open riding; there’s only additions. We’re not going backwards.”

As laid out in the draft EIS, the current version of the plan sets out five options:

• Alternative 1: No additional routes designated, all user-created routes enforced as closed

• Alternative 2 (proposed action): Designate additional 3.4 miles of routes, reallocate 234 acres to open riding

• Alternative 3: Designate additional 3.6 miles of routes, no reallocation to open riding

• Alternative 4 (preferred alternative): Designate additional 2.1 miles of routes, reallocate 455 acres to open riding

• Alternative 5: Designate additional 2.9 miles of routes, reallocate 966 acres to open riding

The areas proposed for reallocation to open riding are places that already tend to be popular with OHV users and vegetated with invasive species such as European beach grass, Morris said. The proposed designated route additions either connect open riding areas to each other or to the beach.

“Designated routes are pretty tightly defined in our management plan,” she said.

Written comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area Designated Routes will be accepted through Dec. 10. They should include your name, address and phone number, as well as the title of the document.

Comments can be mailed to Forest Supervisor Jerry Ingersoll c/o Angie Morris, Recreation Planner, Siuslaw National Forest, 855 Highway 101, Reedsport, OR 97467.

They can also be emailed to comments-pacificnorthwest-siuslaw-centralcoast@fs.fed.us or faxed to 541-271-6034, attn: Angie Morris.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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