Press Advisory: Senate Oversight Hearing on Travel Planning and OHVs

This Thursday Congress will hear from hikers, horseback riders, hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts eager to protect our forests and public lands from the noise, dust and disturbance that come along with growing crowds on off-road vehicles.

Public lands belong to all Americans and everyone has the right to enjoy them. But if we do not better manage our national forests and public lands, we can expect to lose the traditional sense of peace and naturalness most people seek when they venture outdoors as our population grows and as off-road vehicles (ORVs) grow more powerful.

This Thursday, June 5th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which includes Senator Ron Wyden, will hold an oversight hearing to explore the challenges facing federal land managers. This is a good peg for a story about what is happening now in Oregon’s backcountry. The hearing can be accessed at 9:30 am Eastern Standard Time at http://energy.senate.gov/public/ (click on “live webcast” on the left-hand side of the webpage).

The U.S. Forest Service and federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are currently drawing new plans for managing motorized recreation on public lands across the United States. As you are aware, in Mt. Hood National Forest the agency is excluding analysis of the expansive and crumbling road system in this process, which leaves all non-motorized recreation in the lurch. In Washington D.C. this week, quiet recreation, sportsmen, and conservation groups are urging Congress and federal land managers to ensure that these travel plans address all needs on the forest, including the protection of drinking watersheds and Quiet recreation use.

According to Forest Service data, the vast majority of forest users go primarily to enjoy nature and traditional, quiet recreation such as hiking and camping and only a small minority go primarily to ride ORVs. Unless we have more controlled access of off-road vehicles and better enforcement of these controls, the quiet, pristine places we value could slowly disappear. Former Forest Service Chiefs, including Dale Bosworth, and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, have acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and now Congress is turning its eye to it as well.

Specifically, the recreation and conservation voices of the Restore Mt. Hood Coalition are asking Congress and federal land managers to:

***Ensure travel systems are sized appropriately so that under current funding levels agencies can provide law enforcement and other services necessary to manage ORV use and traditional quiet recreation. On Mt. Hood National Forest this means that the existing road and off-road infrastructure must either be reduced to meet the current funding levels of 12% the maintenance need, or Congress increase funding to the full 100%.

***Protect large segments of our forests and backcountry from the noise and pollution that come with ORV use. This would include national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, and other areas of high conservation or recreation value.