Burma OHV closure proposed
Dirt bikers and four-wheeler riders may soon lose use of a major major recreational site, if the BLM moves forward with its preferred plans.
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 24, 2007
Dirt bikers and four-wheeler riders may soon lose use of a major recreational site, if the Bureau of Land Management moves forward with its preferred plans.
The open off-highway vehicle use area located south of Highway 351, known as “Burma” but officially called the Desert General Use area, according to the preferred alternative, would have use restricted to existing roads and trails, with the exception of a smaller area that would be entirely closed to OHV use.
Although there are currently 247,250 acres open to OHV use in the Pinedale Field Office area, the BLM’s preferred alternative would reduce that amount to include only 3,110 acres as “open” with an additional 23,730 acres officially closed. The remainder of the region would allow OHV use only on existing roads and trails, most with seasonal restrictions.
The preferred alternative notes that OHV is an increasingly popular activity, but claims resource damage and conflicts accompany that use.
The Pinedale Resource Management Plan draft environmental impact statement notes that the majority of OHV use in this region takes place on existing roads and trails. OHV use appears to have increased in some areas during the past 15 years as is evident by the expansion of trails by ATVs and motorcycles. Some localized trail expansion is related to the growth in use by racing-type ATVs and motorcycles.
The EIS noted, “The current demand for general OHV use is not exceeding the capacity of areas open to OHV use.”
The EIS attributes the growth in OHV use to:
• Greater public interest in unconfined, outdoor recreational opportunities
• Rise in the amount of disposable income, fostered by a healthy domestic economy, for use in recreational pursuits
• Advances in vehicle technology that enable motorized OHV users to reach previously inaccessible areas
• Rapid expansion and population growth of cities and suburbs in the western States, which has brought Westerners closer to once-remote public lands
• Population with an increasing median age and changing outdoor recreational interests.
Snowmachines are also OHVs and will be impacted by the BLM’s decision on the matter. The Irish Canyon access to the Bridger National Forest is becoming extremely popular for snowmobile use because the route is part of the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail System and extends into the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
The BLM noted that OHV use for antler collecting has become increasingly popular in the past decade as well.
The EIS addresses antler collecting in the following statements: “Shed antler collecting is an increasingly popular recreational and commercial activity. This activity may be affecting the wintering herds of elk and mule deer. Shed antler collecting and human presence in the winter on crucial winter ranges is becoming a problem because it adds to the stress level of wintering deer and elk.”
The EIS claims that increased OHV use during the past 10 to 15 years has created conflict, including repeated motorized travel on erodible soils and/or steep slopes may be causing degradation of water quality, loss of vegetation and alteration of the visual landscape.
The EIS identified the following areas for high levels of OHV use:
• The east side of the Wyoming Range in the vicinity of Red Canyon, Miller Mountain, Bald Mountain, and South Muddy Creek where hunting-related OHV use is creating trails on erodible soils, near riparian areas, and degrading visual quality.
• The Blue Rim area in the Desert General Open Area where OHV use conflicts with resource values in an area containing sensitive resources that may be vulnerable to degradation.
• Portions along the south and western slopes of the Wind River Range where the creation of trails is degrading visual quality.
• Ridgetops in areas that are heavily hunted and where multiple trails have been created by hunters driving up to look over the edge for game.
• Near the communities of Big Piney-Marbleton and Pinedale where the creation of trails on erodible soils is causing visual impacts and contributing to soil erosion.
• Throughout the planning area in areas of intensive or important seasonal use by wildlife.
The EIS claims that OHV use is noisy, which “can be considered intrusive and unpleasant to other recreational users.”
In addition, the EIS noted: “OHV use would impact livestock grazing management through direct human disturbance. These impacts could include animal displacement and injury or death to animals caused by vehicle. It is also expected that incidental damage to range improvements and unplanned livestock movement as a result of gates left unclosed, would occur as a result of OHV use.”
The 90-day public comment period on the EIS will close on May 18.
The draft EIS is available for review at www.blm.gov/rmp/wy/pinedale/.
See the links below for PDF maps of the BLM alternatives.
Map 1 (Alternative 1): Under existing BLM management, OHV users have lots of room to roam without restrictions.
Allternative 1 Map (244K PDF)
Map 2 (Alternative 4): Under the BLM’s preferred alternative, restrictions would be put on off-highway vehicle use throughout the region.
Alternative 4 Map (304K PDF)