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Wildlife part of roads discussion
OHV users say they are being scapegoated

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 9/3/09

   H&N Staff Writer

     Each fall, Tom Collom fields calls from deer and elk hunters asking how to get off the beaten path and away from other hunters.

   Not all hunters make that request but those who do say forest roads   lead to too many hunters in the woods, making it a less enjoyable experience. And the deer and elk also have learned to avoid those areas, they say.

   The growing use of off-highway vehicles on public lands has negatively impacted wildlife, from disrupting habitat to overstressing animals, according to forest and wildlife officials.

   Proposals such as a current Fremont-Winema National Forests plan to   reduce the number of open roads in the forest would lessen those impacts.

   Many off-highway vehicle users say they are being used as scapegoats for problems on public lands when it is irresponsible users that do damage.

   Marvin Schanck of the Chiloquin Ridge Riders and Klamath Basin Off-Highway-Vehicle Club said people who ride off-highway vehicles can provide benefits to a forest because they often keep an eye out   for illegal and harmful activity.

   “It’s not what they’re riding, it’s the people,” he said of environmental impacts in the forests.

   Right now, there are about 3.5 to 5 miles of roads per square mile of forest in the Fremont-Winema. Under the proposal, that would drop to 2.5 miles of road per square mile in the warmer months and less in the winter. Collom and his associates with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife didn’t have a role in developing the Fremont-Winema proposal, but they have documented how motorized use impacts everything from fish to large mammals.

   Deer and elk are more stressed because of encounters with off-highway vehicle users, especially in the winter, Collom said. As a result, he said, they use more of their stored energy, making it more difficult to survive.

   Amy Markus, forest wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said the roads themselves can deposit sediment in streams, affecting sensitive species such as bull trout.  

   Bald eagles also can be stressed, threatening chicks during nesting, and OHV users have been known to damage sensitive ecosystems such as springs, meadows and riparian areas, Markus said. The likelihood of increasing numbers of OHV users suggests the problem will be come worse.

   “It needs to be regulated,” Markus said.

   Schanck said to lay the blame on OHV users is unfair, especially considering the number of other people in the forest doing a variety of things from chopping firewood to collecting mushrooms.

   OHV users are instrumental in preventing people from taking firewood illegally or dumping, poaching or a number of other illegal activities   . In the past year, he said, users he knows have turned in five illegal dumpers and also are working to identify those ripping up terrain on a closed portion of Pelican Butte.

   “The U.S. Forest Service needs partners to help manage the forest,” he said.

   OHV users also are concerned that disabled hunters won’t be able to access the forest under the proposal because they won’t be able to use their vehicles to retrieve game off roads.

   Collom said disabled individuals will still be able to access the forest, and they can apply for a disabled car tag to hunt from their vehicle. However, they also will be restricted because otherwise allowing them to use vehicles where others can’t would negate the effects of limiting motorized travel.
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