April 24, 2012
Appeal Deciding Officer
RE: Part 215 Notice of Appeal, Turkey Springs Trail Management Record of Decision
Pagosa District, US Forest Service, San Juan National Forest.
The comments below are submitted in addition to the comments submitted by the San Juan Trail Riders (SJTR). It appears to the TPA and COHVCO that the past 24 months of work by the SJTR were not considered by the Pagosa District Ranger in his final record of decision. In fact it appears to us that the SJTR membership, the 24 months of work, coordinated by the district ranger were not considered in the final ROD. In addition it appears the final ROD represents a plan that does not meet the expectations conveyed by the Forests Service to the SJTR during their 24 month of work. The Organizations believe that the seasonal closure of the single track motorcycle trails for the benefit of other user groups is arbitrary and not supported by science. These seasonal closures must be reviewed and amended to provide a plan that conforms with current science and the purpose and intent of the planning.
Decision Notice and FONSI
Additionally, there exist numerous viable alternatives that were not properly considered by the decisionmaker as required by NEPA. These alternatives would have included designation of substantially more single track motorized trail mileage and other decision elements as offered in our comments.
Seasonal Wildlife Closures
“Much of the District is inaccessible to mountain bikes either by virtue of terrain limitations or through the mechanized travel prohibitions associated with formal Wilderness and special area designations: over 30 percent of the District has such a designation.”
In addition, there are thousands of acres of wilderness and secure fawning and calving areas and hundreds of mile of non-motorized trails available to wildlife and non-motorized users on a year-round basis. A lack of any site-specific analysis to support closing these trails to motorized recreation in favor of non-motorized recreation leads one to conclude that this decision is both arbitrary and capricious. In addition, there is simply no scientific analysis or justification provided for the selected closing date of September 1.
Throughout the decision and EA, ongoing user conflicts are identified as the basis for routing of trails and seasonal closures. While user conflicts are a VERY valid concern in planning, it appears that the proposition may not be relevant in the Plan. The EA notes:
“While these instances of recreation conflicts have been noted by users of the analysis area, outreach efforts have also revealed that such instances are fairly isolated and have not detracted considerably from the experiences of the majority of users of this area. In recent years, partnerships have been formed between several advocacy clubs (most notably the local ATV, horseback, and mountain biking clubs) to promote shared use and care of the trails in this area. Additionally, comments were provided during the scoping period for this project praising the degree of cooperation among the different groups and a general lack of contentiousness that has been perceived to be occurring between user groups on other Forests and Districts.”
While management of user conflicts appears to target OHV usage in the decision, the Organizations note that user conflicts often exist outside motorized recreation, such as between skiers and snowboarders, heli-skiers and back country skiers, hunters and non-hunters, hunters and other hunters, hikers and bikers, runners and dog walkers on urban trails, and hikers and farmers. Despite the ongoing nature of these conflicts, motorized recreation on public lands is the only area for which closure has been asserted to be properly be the first method for remedying perceived conflicts.
The Forest Service is required to utilize best available science in the development of travel plans. Researchers have specifically identified that properly determining the basis for user conflict is critical to determining the proper method for managing this conflict. Scientific analysis defines the division of conflicts as follows:
“For interpersonal conflict to occur, the physical presence or behavior of an individual or a group of recreationists must interfere with the goals of another individual or group….Social values conflict, on the other hand, can occur between groups who do not share the same norms (Ruddell&Gramann, 1994) and/or values (Saremba& Gill, 1991), independent of the physical presence or actual contact between the groups……When the conflict stems from interpersonal conflict, zoning incompatible users into different locations of the resource is an effective strategy. When the source of conflict is differences in values, however, zoning is not likely to be very effective. In the Mt. Evans study (Vaske et al., 1995), for example, physically separating hunters from nonhunters did not resolve the conflict in social values expressed by the nonhunting group. Just knowing that people hunt in the area resulted in the perception of conflict. For these types of situations, efforts designed to educate and inform the different visiting publics about the reasons underlying management actions may be more effective in reducing conflict.”
Other researchers have distinguished types of user conflicts based on a goals interference distinction, described as follows:
“The travel management planning process did not directly assess the prevalence of on-site conflict between non-motorized groups accessing and using the yurts and adjacent motorized users…..The common definition of recreation conflict for an individual assumes that people recreate in order to achieve certain goals, and defines conflict as “goal interference attributed to another’s behavior” (Jacob & Schreyer, 1980, p. 369). Therefore, conflict as goal interference is not an objective state, but is an individual’s appraisal of past and future social contacts that influences either direct or indirect conflict. It is important to note that the absence of recreational goal attainment alone is insufficient to denote the presence of conflict. The perceived source of this goal interference must be identified as other individuals.”
It is significant to note that Mr. Norling’s study, cited above, was specifically created to determine why travel management had not resolved user conflicts for winter users of a group of yurts on the Wasache-Cache National forest. As noted in Mr. Norling’s study, the travel management in the areas surrounding the yurts failed to distinguish why the conflict was occurring and this failure prevented the land managers from effectively resolving the conflict.
The Organizations believe that understanding why the travel management plan was unable to resolve socially based user conflicts on the Wasache-Cache National Forest is critical in the CRVO planning process. Properly understanding the issue to be resolved will ensure that the same errors that occurred on the Wasache-Cache are not implemented again to address problems they simply cannot resolve.
The EA relies on documents that accurately address these user conflict issues but the decision fails to head the warnings of these works and relevant social sciences. The EA specifically provides:
“The greatest potential impact involves disruptions to hunters and hunting experiences, especially in areas that currently receive little to no motorized use but are known to be used by big game hunters (primarily the Devil Mountain, Horse Mountain, Horse Creek, and Elk Creek areas). As is well documented, the presence of motorized vehicles and users in forest environments can detract from the experiences of non-motorized users during encounters, including hunters (Yankoviak 2005 and Moore 1994). It can be reasonably anticipated that, because hunters would be exposed to greater levels of motorized use as a result of this alternative (both by virtue of the new trails being designated and the overall increase in motorized use predicted), some measure of impact to hunting experiences and opportunities is probable relating to the sounds of motorized vehicles, the potential effects on game presence in certain areas, and direct encounters with motorized users.”
The Organizations agree that the Yankoviak paper does discuss various user conflicts and wildlife disturbances. The Organizations have to note that the clearly stated conclusions of the Yankoviak paper agree with the social science determinations noted above as the paper concludes:
“In terms of meeting the needs of a wide variety of recreationists, it is important for managers to evaluate ORV opportunities at a larger geographic scale. If nothing else, the relative availabilities of motorized and non-motorized opportunities in one forest may extend to other areas…… Consequently, ORV planning should be done across jurisdictional boundaries within a defined geographic area. At the very least, such arrangements would discourage situations where decisions made for the benefit of one party have equally harmful consequences for another (as, for example, when the closure of one area to ORVs aggravates the loading on another area). If nothing else, local Forest Service officials should be cognizant of how user-friendly the travel management plans are, as the average visitor is not going to be as familiar with regional, forest, or district boundaries as are Forest Service personnel. As things now stand, management plans too often seem to rely too heavily on boundaries that visitors are unlikely to be able to recognize.”
The Organizations have to believe that the current decisions proposal for the resolution of possible user conflicts by closing only single track motorcycle trails for the benefit of hunters and wildlife directly contradicts the conclusions of the research that is relied on to justify these closures by relying on boundaries that may not be visible to forest users and relying on these boundaries to make land use decisions to the exclusion of certain users.
A 2005 National Survey on Recreation and Environment for the Forest Service’s National OHV Policy and Implementation team found that 26% of adults in Colorado participate in OHV recreation activities (NSRE 2005). The reason that some national use monitoring surveys in the national forests find declining levels of OHV use is because national forests continue to reduce and eliminate trails available for motorized use. Sales of OHV vehicles continue to rise while public lands available for motorized use continue to decline.
The Trails Preservation Alliance respectfully requests withdrawal of the Turkey Springs Trail Management decision to analyze the demand for and possible addition of single-track trail miles. As has been proven in the past, our members and other members of the single-track motorized community will work in close cooperation with the Pagosa Ranger District to ensure responsible riding and trail sustainability.
The point of contact for this appeal is Don Riggle, Director of Operations, TPA, firstname.lastname@example.org, and cell 719 338 4106
note: download PDF for detailed references