MS Forest Service Listens to Trail Riders

January 30, 2009
Courtesy of American Motorcyclist Association

2009 Honda Rancher AT
“The OHV community supports limiting motorized vehicles to designated routes and areas… But what we do not support is the Forest Service refusing to even consider designating the existing routes that are so popular with Forest visitors.”

Motorcyclists and other off-highway-vehicle users are encouraged that their voices will be more clearly heard in the on-going development of a U.S. Forest Service plan that outlines the future use of the Mississippi National Forest.

In response to an administrative appeal filed by various groups, including the Memphis Motorcycle Club (MMC) and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), with the support of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the Forest Service has withdrawn a Travel Management Plan for the Mississippi National Forest. In a statement, the Forest Service said the move would allow the “consideration of additional analysis to be documented in the project record.”

“This is what we asked for in our appeals, and we hope to be able to seize the opportunity of a new process to defend our historical access to previously undesignated trails in these forests,” stated Mark Story with the MMC. “We appreciate the difficulty of the Forests’ task and the effort they put forth, but felt that it was important that at least some of these routes be considered in a viable decision option. As the rule itself states, a few of these routes provide valuable recreation opportunities while enhancing the agency’s ability to create a well-designed and manageable network of sustainable trails that will minimize potential adverse effects to the environment.”

The Forest Service sought to implement the direction of the national 2005 Travel Management Rule, which requires units of the National Forest System to transition to a managed system of vehicle use on designated roads, trails and areas. The September 2008 Mississippi Forests travel plan decision designated approximately 127 miles of roads for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, as well as approximately 144 miles of motorized trails, but refused to even consider for official designation the hundreds of miles of trails that have previously been created and traveled under prior “open” forest management but never included in the forests’ formal transportation system.

Added BRC Public Lands Policy Director Brian Hawthorne, “The OHV community supports limiting motorized vehicles to designated routes and areas. We understand that not every route open today will remain open. But what we do not support is the Forest Service refusing to even consider designating the existing routes that are so popular with Forest visitors.”

AMA Government Affairs Manager Royce Wood added, “AMA clubs are committed to helping the Forest Service designate travel networks that can be actively and effectively managed to provide for diverse recreational opportunities while conserving the physical environment. We hope the Forest Service will consider us a resource to effectively manage this popular activity.”

The Mississippi units include the Bienville, De Soto, Homochitto, Delta, Holly Springs and Tombigee National Forests. Collectively, they compose 1.2 million acres of public land and include the state’s most beautiful landscapes and opportunities for recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, driving for pleasure and simply enjoying the outdoors.

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