Juneau-area off-road vehicle planning

My turn

Posted: Sunday, April 01, 2001

Given the land ownership patterns where trails often cross from CBJ to state lands to national forest lands, it was important that all agencies be involved to develop a coordinated approach to preparing this area-wide ORV plan. It was also important for the various groups who use the Juneau area trails be represented in the process.

The Forest Service, City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and Trail Mix, along with interested user groups, started a multi-agency and multi-user group planning process to update the Juneau area Off Road Vehicle Plan.

Since the closure of the Dredge Lakes area, there are very few legal areas for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) owners to ride in the spring, summer and fall. Access to snowmachine riding areas is also limited. Given the land ownership patterns where trails often cross from CBJ to state lands to national forest lands, it was important that all agencies be involved to develop a coordinated approach to preparing this area-wide ORV plan. It was also important for the various groups who use the Juneau area trails be represented in the process.

A steering committee was formed composed of the following members who represent these respective groups: general public (Paul Dick, Jonathan Anderson); Juneau Nordic Ski Club (Steve Kocsis); Juneau Alpine Club (Tim Arness); ATV riders (Gail Niemi, Erin Heywood); Juneau Snowmobile Club (Mark Wilke, Brad Davis); Trail Mix (James King); Alaska State Parks (Bill Gary); Alaska Department of Natural Resources (Ron Schonenbach), Forest Service (Ron Marvin); and City and Borough of Juneau (Bob Grochow).

The goal of this group is to provide recommendations for revising the ORV Travel Plan. We identified several steps that we would take in identifying solutions. First we determined what characteristics make an area or trail desirable for ATV or snowmobile use. Following that, we identified issues and concerns, both social and natural resource-related, by which any proposed areas and trails would be evaluated. The next step for the group will be to identify areas and trails that might meet the characteristics determined for desirable areas and trails. Once identified on a map, we will evaluate potential areas and trails on concerns and issues specific to each location. This group may also identify ways to reduce impacts on other users or on natural resources at each site, or suggest possible projects to improve an area for snowmobile or ATV use, such as construction of adequate parking areas if none exist. The final step will be for the committee to rank areas and trails that could be considered for ORV use by one or more of the land management agencies. This step should be completed by June 1.

Each agency may take the recommendations involving lands under its jurisdiction and roll them into its planning process. If the best opportunity for providing for ATV or snowmobile use falls within the national forest, we will develop a specific proposed action for it. We would conduct an environmental analysis under the public process laid out by the National Environmental Policy Act. This will include public scoping and other opportunities for public comment during the analysis. We plan to publish a decision by January 2002.

All user groups, including ATV and snow machine riders, hikers, skiers, snowboarders, bicycle riders, dog walkers, runners, wildlife viewers, etc., are encouraged to send in comments about where ORV use should or should not be allowed. Written comments and proposals should be submitted to Marc Scholten, Juneau Ranger District, 8465 Old Dairy Road, Juneau, AK 99801 or e-mail to mscholten@fs.fed.us. A return mailing address and e-mail address, if available, should be included with any comments so those interested can stay involved in this effort. We also hope people get in touch with one or more of the user group representatives with their suggestions and comments.

Pete Griffin is the district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.



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