Motorized Use Emergency Closure Request

June 30, 2015

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Klamath National Forest
Rob MacWhorter Patricia Grantham
Forest Supervisor Forest Supervisor
3040 Biddle Road 1711 South Main St.
Medford, OR 97504 Yreka, CA 96097-9549

Re: Emergency Closure Request For Motorized Use on RR-SNF and KNF to protect Botanical Areas and the Siskiyou Crest from OHV use.

Greetings,

The purpose of this correspondence is to request an emergency closure on the Siskiyou Crest and Botanical Areas on both the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Klamath National Forest, due to ongoing and significant off-road vehicle (OHV) damage to the areas botanical, hydrological, and scenic values. It may be that off-road use is already technically prohibited by the Forest Service on portions of the Siskiyou Crest, but the current policy is not preventing damage to the botanical, hydrological and scenic values of the area. More is needed. We would emphasize a “seemless” approach in which both National Forests work to eliminate OHV use within Botanical Areas, wetlands, and off designated roads. A combination of motorized closure, informative signs, physical barriers, and law enforcement are needed. All routes, roads and trails identified by the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project and the Siskiyou Crest Blog in the 2015 Siskiyou Crest OHV Monitoring Report should be included within the emergency closure area and closed to OHV use with legally enforceable Forest Order Closures.

Considerable adverse effects are occurring and a comprehensive strategy is necessary to protect the Siskiyou Crest and its designated Botanical Areas from additional OHV damage. Pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §551, the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project and its supporters petition the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Klamath National Forest to issue an emergency closure order on the Siskiyou Crest.

The Forest Service has jurisdiction over these public lands. This Petition initiates a process with definite response requirements on the agency. Specifically, the Forest Service must respond to this petition and must issue a closure order for the area covered in this petition upon a finding that ORV activity in these areas has caused or will cause “considerable adverse effects . . . upon soil, vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat, cultural resources, historical resources, threatened or endangered species, wilderness suitability, other authorized uses, or other resources.” Exec. Order 11644, 11989 at § 9; 36 C.F.R. § 212.52(b)(2). Petitioners need only demonstrate “considerable adverse effects” resulting from ORV activity. Such adverse effects are clearly documented in the 2015 Siskiyou Crest OHV Monitoring Report. No other showing is required under the Executive Orders or Forest Service regulations.

This Petition demonstrates that OHVs are causing considerable adverse effects to these areas. Therefore, Petitioners request that the Forest Service immediately publish an ORV closure order for these public lands in the Federal Register. The APA requires each federal agency to conclude a matter presented to it in a reasonable time. 5 U.S.C. § 555(b).

Notably, such mandatory closures must remain in effect “until such time as [the Forest Service] determines that such adverse effects have been eliminated and that measures have been implemented to prevent future recurrence.” Exec. Order 11644, 11989 at § 9; see also 36 C.F.R. § 212.52(b)(2). Please note that the Executive Orders and Travel Management Rule also require the agency to “minimize damage to soil, watershed, vegetation, or other resources” from motorized trail and area designations and to ensure management is “based upon the protection of the resources of the public lands, promotion of the safety of all users and those lands, and [the] minimization of conflicts among the various uses of those lands.” Indeed, the Executive Orders create a non-discretionary duty to enforce a closure on motorized use whenever such use “will cause or is causing considerable adverse effects.”

The Forest Service is well within its authority to issue these closures without additional NEPA analysis. A forest supervisor may, by order, “close or restrict the use of described areas within the area over which they have jurisdiction.” 36 C.F.R. § 261.50(a). Such “[a]n order may close an area to entry or may restrict the use of an area by applying any or all of the prohibitions authorized in this subpart or any portion thereof.” Id. In addition, “each Forest Supervisor may issue orders which close or restrict the use of any National Forest System road or trail within the area over which he has jurisdiction. (36 C.F.R. § 261.50 (b)).”

Conclusion.

We urge you to use your authority to immediately close to motorized vehicles the area petitioned.

We are also requesting that the agency promptly begin development of a Restoration Plan to identify and schedule the remedial activities that are needed to restore areas that have been damaged by motorized vehicle use within the petitioned area. Most importantly, the agency must prevent further damage and degradation from occurring by closing road and cross country OHV routes. Thus, the requested Closure Order should be issued immediately and the Restoration/ Route Decommissioning Plan should be developed as expeditiously as possible afterwards. It is essential that the Closure Order and Restoration Plan be supported by agency law enforcement. It is also essential that adequate closure measures be taken to eliminate continued OHV impacts and conflicts.

Thank you for your consideration.

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