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Protect the Hinkle Lake Botanical Area

The Hinkle Lake Botanical Area hosts some of the Siskiyou Crest’s most spectacular high mountain meadows.


          Hinkle Lake and the Hinkle Lake Botanical Area are located in the Oregon section of the Kangaroo Roadless Area, adjacent to the Red Buttes Wilderness, above Carberry Creek in the Upper Applegate River drainage. The Hinkle Lake Botanical Area is a place of spectacular beauty,set aside for its significant botanical diversity and quality of habitat. The meadow system surrounding Hinkle Lake is one of the largest in the Red Buttes region, and it hosts numerous rare and endemic species. One particularly rare species, known as the Alpine Liverwort (Chilosyphus gemmiparus), is found in only six other locations worldwide. Unfortunately, in the Hinkle Lake Botanical Area, Alpine Liverwort habitat is being severely degraded by illegal Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use.
          Thirty-three years ago the Forest Service recognized the negative impacts that motor vehicles were having on the meadows around Hinkle Lake. Since
June of 1980 a Forest Order Closure (RSF #106) has been instituted in the Low Gap/Hinkle
Lake area. This officially closed the area to motorized use due to
both resource damage and public safety concerns after a young man was killed on his OHV in
the basin. Forest Service Road 850 was closed by a
locked gate and the section of road entering the basin was officially dropped
from the Forest Transportation System, as well as from Forest Service maps, making all motorized use illegal. At an undisclosed date the gate was
vandalized and vehicle trespass into the area became routine. 

OHV damage at the shoreline of Hinkle Lake

           Ten years later the area was designated as a Botanical Area under the 1990 Land and Resource Management Plan. This designation prohibits OHV use off of National Forest System roads. Botanical Area designation also emphasizes management and public use that is compatible with botanical preservation. Despite clear management
directives and attempts to eliminate OHV travel in the area, the problem
has continued and intensified. Botanical Area Management
Plans mandated in 1990 were
never produced by the Forest Service, thus the impacts to this Botanical Area went unmonitored and undocumented,
and the Forest Order Closure was routinely violated by all classes of motor
vehicles. Severe impacts to wetlands and high mountain meadows have occurred in
violation of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) objectives and in
contradiction to Botanical Area management protocol. Furthermore, the area was identified
in the Carberry Creek Watershed Analysis as an area of concern in regard to
“resource damage,” and further identified the “Hinkle Lake meadows and road
system” as a priority for restoration. 

           Despite the agency’s clear land management mandates, the issue of OHV use in the area went unaddressed for over 30 years. Recently, however, a coalition of environmental groups, hiking clubs, and concerned citizens have pushed the Forest Service to enforce this longstanding motor vehicle closure. A more proactive approach by both the public and the agency has begun to turn the tide, yet more needs to be done.


OHV damage of wet meadows in the Hinkle Lake Botanical Area


            The solution to this ongoing problem
is to address the physical trespass of motor vehicles, inadequate agency monitoring and enforcement, as well as the inappropriate and illegal OHV use which has caused resource damage in the area. These problems can all be
addressed by implementing the following proposal:

1)      Make road 850 physically
impassable to all classes of motorized vehicles through the use of tank traps,
earthen berms, gates, and other appropriate structures

2)       Officially declare road 850 a Siskiyou Mountain Ranger District hiking
trail open only to non-motorized use

3)      Adequately sign the new Hinkle Lake Trail, possibly with a message board explaining the motor vehicle closure

             The trail proposal would not trigger the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as no ground disturbing activities would be necessary and the closed road bed would simply become a footpath. No physical trail clearing or development would be needed. The large and developed Fir Glade Trailhead already exists at the intersection of road 800 and closed road 850, which could easily be used for the new Hinkle Lake Trail as well. A new trail sign may be the only new infrastructure needed. The agency would not need to allocate significant funding and a scoping period providing public comment has already been completed.  

           By encouraging an appropriate and compatible use in the area other more inappropriate uses would be reduced. The public could help to monitor the closure, a task the agency does not seem capable of due to budget and staffing constraints. It also seems clear that the current illegal OHV use in the area would be excluded as other uses, such as hiking, take hold. Simply put OHV users would not feel comfortable trespassing in the area and breaching the closure if other users were present to observe the violation. If vandalism and OHV abuse were to occur, other forest users (e.g. hikers) could notify the agency of such abuse. To implement this proposal I believe the agency would simply have to say it was so and find minimal funding to create the physical structures needed to eliminate OHV use and access. The closure is already in place, the area is an inventoried roadless area, designated as a Botanical Area, and already the focus of closure efforts. 
            Please contact the Forest Service and encourage them to consider this proposal and to work with local partners (e.g. non-profits, advocacy groups, hiking clubs, concerned citizens, the Native Plant Society of Oregon etc.), to manage the Hinkle Lake basin in a manner that is consistent with current laws, land management directives and designations. Please let them know that Hinkle Lake is a high mountain jewel, to be protected, restored, and preserved for future generations. 

Contact the following Forest Service officials:

Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District, Donna Mickley, District Ranger:      dmickley@fs.fed.us

 

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Rob MacWhorter, Forest Supervisor:     rmacwhorter@fs.fed.us

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