Last winter HCPC filed suit to protect the Sled Springs area and the wildlife that inhabit it (particularly big game species like Rocky Mountain elk) from the damage and disturbance that will result if the proposed 38,000-acre section of the Wallowa Valley Ranger District becomes a designated OHV park. (See Blog posted on December 28, 2009).
This August, HCPC filed its opening argument (available at: http://www.hellscanyon.org/docs/index_13_1094190278.pdf).
HCPC’s argument states the Forest Service failed to conduct the proper level of environmental analysis and adequately consider the environmental consequences of transforming the area from currently one of relatively low OHV use to an advertised and promoted destination riding area for OHV enthusiasts. Because the 2005 nationwide Travel Management Rule requires all national forests to prohibit unconfined cross-country OHV use, the Sled Springs area would already have to come under this new management direction in the very near future. Yet the Forest Service failed to consider the option of simply complying with this national direction—prohibiting current OHV users from traveling off designated routes—and identifying a modest level of OHV trail riding opportunities on currently open roads/trails. Instead, the agency only considered options that call for the construction of several miles of new OHV routes and the creation of a large-scale designated OHV trail system with formal staging areas. The final decision authorizes motorized use on 144 miles of roads and trails! HCPC argues that the establishment of such a colossal OHV trail network will inevitably give rise to increased motorized use—both legal and unauthorized.
Last Friday, the Forest Service filed its response argument, once again alleging its decision properly accounted for the negative effects to elk and other wildlife. The case is set for oral argument this December in Pendleton before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan.
Staff Attorney, Jennifer Schwartz
Photo credit: Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences