From the BRC. Sure sounds like the FS had a hidden agenda going.
BRC ACTION ALERT
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED
"The Forest Service refuses funds to fix the 'bad apples,' then kicks out the 'good guys' who got the funds! That's not management, that's just stupid!" Dear BRC Members, Supporters and Action Alert Subscribers,
Brian Hawthorne, BlueRibbon Coalition
As you know, "form letter" comments are rarely effective in moving a travel plan proposal. But there are exceptions.
There are situations where many "form letters" from concerned citizens can help keep trails open, especially where the agency has been heavy handed with OHV people.
The Holly Springs National Forest in Mississippi has been particularly heavy handed - WE NEED YOUR HELP.
Please read the brief SITUATION below. I'll wager that you will be as outraged as I am, and find this situation worthy of the few minutes it will take to send an email to the Forest Service. Simple instructions on how to send a letter are below.
I certainly hope you don't find this story typical. If you have a similar story to tell, please send us your story, and include as many specifics as possible. Maybe we can help.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact BRC.
Thanks in advance for your support,
Public Lands Policy Director
208-237-1008 ext 102
Public Lands Dept. Manager
208-237-1008 ext 107
Although almost all of Mississippi's Holly Springs National Forest is closed to motorized use, there is a small area near Chewalla Lake that is home to a modest dirt bike trail system. The trails have been in existence for a long time, some 25 years or more, and the Forest Service knew all about them.
After listening to the Forest Service continually complain about "off-trail" use (and lack of funding), the Memphis Motorcycle Club (MMC) applied for OHV Grant funds to build fencing, post signs and otherwise try to improve the "unmanaged" OHV use around Chewalla Lake. And sure enough, in full cooperation and coordination with the Forest Service, they got the funds.
Guess what happened next? The Forest Service refused to accept the funds! The RTP program was prepared to hand them $14 thousand to help stop what the Forest Service themselves said was a big problem -- and the Forest Service refused the money.
But that's not all. Not long after saying "no thanks" to $14 grand, the bureaucratic masterminds over at the Holly Springs NF tell the MMC guys that all of their trails have to be closed. Sorry, they say, no exceptions. But don't worry, they quickly add, they'll build a totally new, environmentally sustainable trail system soon! (At a cost of at least $22,000.00 per mile!).
No, really. They said that. It's on page 11 of the National Forests in Mississippi Travel Plan Environmental Assessment. (http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/mississippi/travel/index.shtml).
Allow me to go over that again, just so we are all clear. The super-geniuses at the HSNF refuse funds to fix a problem they identified, allowing the problem to continue, and then they close all of the trails used by the folks that got them the funds to fix the problem. And they actually expect us to believe that 'it's all good' because they'll be building totally NEW trails -- starting at $22 grand per mile.
If this weren't wrong on so many levels, it would be funny.
BRC is working with the Memphis Motorcycle Club and the American Motorcyclist Association to bring some oversight to this bureaucratic bungling. We are preparing solid grounds to challenge any permanent closure of the trails on the Holly Springs NF. Your letter, even a quick cut and paste form letter, will help!
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
Please send an email to the National Forests in Mississippi (NFIM). Use the comment suggestions below. Be sure to add a bit of personal information.
If you want, you can use BRC's letter generator. http://www.sharetrails.org/letters/letter.php?id=13. It has an easy interface for adding additional comments and sending your letter.
And YES! You can contribute to a Holly Springs defense fund. Go to http://www.sharetrails.org/fwd/holly-springs-fund. This link will re-direct you to our secure join/contribute page and will automatically fill out what your contribution is for.
Be polite. Be Professional. Be on time. (The comment deadline is Monday, June 23, 2008)
* Address your email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
* In the Subject Line of your email, please put: "Comments on NFIM Travel Management EA"
* Paste in the name and address:
Mississippi Route Designation, c/o ACT2
837 Clermont; Antigo, WI 54409
* It's always good to include a brief paragraph about how much you and your family enjoy motorized use on National Forest lands.
* Use the comment suggestions below in your email:
The Holly Springs National Forest offers excellent motorized recreation opportunities. The Chewalla Lake area has had a motorized trail-based recreational niche for many decades. The agency has acknowledged that the demand for OHV riding opportunities on National Forests in Mississippi has increased dramatically in recent years. It therefore seems only appropriate that the agency consider at least one Alternative that addresses the need for increased OHV trails and reflects the motorized niche near the Chewalla Lake area.
The motorized recreating public will not accept budgetary constraints as an excuse for route closures. Ironically, it is the motorized user community that has been successful in securing substantial funds for OHV management in the U.S.F.S. Southern Region. There are several grant and volunteer programs available, and the OHV community is committed to help provide the tools to address legitimate concerns about route maintenance. Therefore, my comment is that you address any legitimate maintenance concerns by incorporating a training protocol into your travel plan that would train agency staff on how to apply for grants, use the challenge cost share program, effectively manage volunteer programs, and learn about and apply for other funding sources. In addition, you might consider MOUs or other similar agreements with recreational groups, such as the Memphis Motorcycle Club.
The extensive comments made by OHV users early in the process clearly show a need to consider the user-created trail system near Chewalla Lake. The agency is directed to consider a wide range of Alternatives that respond to issues and concerns brought to the agency by the public, especially those who will be directly affected by the decision. I simply cannot accept the process proceeding on its current course. I believe it is incumbent on the agency to formulate at least one Alternative that includes some sort of motorized trail system near Chewalla Lake.
The NFIM Travel Plan EA errs in refusing to even consider one of the user-created trails in the Chewalla Lake area. This approach is not consistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the agency's Travel Management Rule. In addressing a comment regarding treatment of "user-created routes," the agency stated, "[s]ome user-created routes are well-sited, provide excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation by motorized and nonmotorized users alike, involve less environmental impact than unrestricted cross-country motor vehicle use, and would enhance the system of designated routes and areas."
Heb Dduw, heb ddim; Duw a digon
I'm that gun-totin', farm-raised, evangelical, pro-environment, OHV ridin'/drivin', Southern civil rights pro-labor Liberal yo' momma told you couldn't possibly exist.