Travel plan vital for national forest
The U.S. population has tripled since the Forest Service was founded in 1905, and recreation use of national forests and grasslands has multiplied seven-fold since 1970. The White River National Forest has seen a dramatic increase in recreation use, more than 100 percent between the years of 1992 to 2002, and is predicted to see an increase of another 50 percent over the next 20 years.This phenomenal interest in recreation, especially hiking, biking and motorized sports, is a national trend and has led to the Forest Service to identify unmanaged recreation as a major threat to the future vitality of our forest. I believe that an imperative part of managing recreation on the White River National Forest is the management of our road and trail systems, which we refer to as travel management.This winter, my forest staff brought the White River National Forest Draft Travel Management Plan into compliance with the new national rule that was released late last year. The new national travel management rule requires each national forest and grassland to identify and designate those roads, trails and areas that are open to motor vehicle use.The draft travel plan for the White River National Forest encompasses all forms of travel for summer and winter that will incorporate the new national rule. This draft will integrate public comment on the entire travel management network of roads and trails including measures to implement new national direction.The White River National Forest began the plan’s development process in September of 2002. The travel management strategy was originally part of the Forest Plan revision process, but was separated out because of its complexity. The planning effort has involved, and will continue to involve, not only White River staff, but also federal and state agencies, local governments, tribal agencies and a host of interest groups and individuals.The plan will be our official guidance on how to achieve the balance we seek in caring for the land and serving people; providing opportunities for forest visitors to enjoy their public lands and protecting vital public resources like clean water, clean air, scenery and forest products. It will help me, and my forest staff, set priorities and effectively administer these public lands for ours and future generations.We acknowledge that implementation of our final plan will have impacts on people who use the forest. The key to our success will be to provide for quality recreation opportunities; and while a key component of the plan is recreation, other users such as timber contractors, and grazing permittees also use our road and trail system.The draft travel management plan does not strictly focus on motorized travel, it is a comprehensive plan that includes cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, hiking, and off-highway vehicle and all-terrain vehicle use.The plan will consider the following:n Designation of the summer road and trail system.n Defining the designated forest roads and trails.n Defining what modes of travel are accepted on each road and trail.n Deciding whether to incorporate or rehabilitate unauthorized routes.n Determining if certain forest routes are no longer needed as part of the system and identified those for decommissioning.n Designation of winter uses.n Determining area strategies for allowable winter activities.n Defining routes and play areas for winter activities.The results will provide the forest with:n A complete mapping of the forest’s travel system.n Acknowledgement of user-created, or rogue roads, that will either be eliminated or integrated into the forest system of roads and trails.n Concentrating use where most feasible to lessen damage to resources such as soils, vegetation and watersheds.n Conveying recreation expectations to forest users.n Recognizing transportation needs for uses other than recreation.The draft plan will be released in late July. The plan, along with maps and other informational materials, will be posted to our Web site. Copies of the plan on CD can be obtained by visiting any of our offices or by requesting a CD through our Web site when the plan is released. We will host a series of open houses at various locations across the forest, and staff will be available to answer questions throughout the 90-day comment period.The White River is dedicated to developing our travel management plan using an open process that actively seeks public input. The draft plan process will incorporate public input into our planning effort that will greatly contribute to the outcome of our final plan. We welcome and value all voices at the table and invite you to become actively involved in this process. Please visit our Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/ for updates and copies of the plan when it is available later this month.Matibeth Gustafson is the White River National Forest supervisor.