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Siskiyou Mountain Range

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The Mule Mountain Trail is not only one of the most popular hiking trails in the Applegate Valley, but also one of the most intact, low-elevation habitats in Southern Oregon. Forest Service land managers are proposing this beautiful trail system for motorized use.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (dROD) for the Travel Management Plan. The Travel Management Plan (TMP) was necessitated by the Travel Management Rule — a national Forest Service policy intended to address the impact of OHV use on public resources. The Travel Management Rule cites “soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat,” as well as impacts to “quiet recreational experiences,” as issues to be addressed in each National Forests’ TMP. The rule identifies criteria for the designation of OHV routes, including minimizing the potential impacts to soils, watersheds, vegetation and wildlife habitats. Other criteria includes reducing “conflicts between motor vehicle users and existing or proposed recreational uses.”

The Travel Management Rule also identified parameters that should guide placement of off-road vehicle routes on the landscape, stating that, “areas are not intended to be large or numerous…These areas would have natural resources characteristics that are suitable for motor vehicle use, or would be so significantly altered by past actions that motor vehicle use might be appropriate.” The guidance provided in the federal rule is clear, in that it encourages land managers to reduce impacts associated with motorized use on natural resources and other recreational uses. 

Despite recommendations in the Travel Management Rule to designate areas that are “significantly altered by past actions,” pristine mountain meadows, such as this one on the Boundary Trail near Sturgis Creek, are being proposed for motorized use.

Sadly, none of these recommendations were followed when developing the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest TMP. The Travel Management Plan will be used by the Forest Service to manage off-road vehicle use on lands throughout southwestern Oregon and the Siskiyou Mountains, a region know for its wild landscapes, pristine streams, exceptional botanical diversity, and excellent opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. The recently published Draft Record of Decision, signed by Forest Supervisor Rob MacWhorter, is likely one of the worst off-road vehicle management plans approved on Forest Service lands in the Pacific northwest. 

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has declared our local roadless areas, botanical areas, research natural areas, back country non-motorized areas and sensitive habitats as sacrifice zones for extreme OHV use. The political corruption and undue influence of off-road vehicle special interest groups have created a biased and narrow Record of Decision that prioritizes off-road vehicle use over all other issues, interests, and environmental concerns. According to the FEIS “The primary potential adverse cumulative effects of these proposed actions, when considered with other past, present, and reasonable foreseeable future action are the reduction or elimination of certain kinds of motorized vehicle recreation or access opportunities on an extended area across the Pacific NW Region. The greatest potential cumulative effect is the loss of general motorized access off of designated routes (roads and trails) or outside of designated areas (cross-country travel), given the local, regional, and national application of the Travel Management Rule. There appears to be a trend for limiting motorized access to designated routes on public lands (proposed actions and decisions for implementing the Travel Management Rule on the Willamette, Umpqua, Klamath, Six Rivers, and Fremont-Winema Forests); as well as private forest and ranchlands and county lands in the local area. Given the national scope of the Travel Management Rule, there is a potentially significant adverse effect to off-road motorized access and recreation across the Pacific Northwest region. The degree to which the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is likely to contribute to this cumulative effect cannot be reasonably predicted. However, the development of proposed motorized trail systems may somewhat offset this adverse effect by providing additional designated motorized trail opportunities.” 

In other words, despite a general consensus among national forest managers across the region — that off-road vehicle use should be limited to reduce significant adverse environmental and social impacts, as well as user conflicts — the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has chosen to increase motorized trail opportunities in sensitive lands such as inventoried roadless areas, botanical areas, back country non-motorized areas, and research natural areas. Apparently, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest managers are offering the wild habitats of the Siskiyou Mountains as a sacrifice zone where motorized vehicle recreation will be prioritized above reducing botanical impacts, wildlife impacts, erosion concerns, water quality issues, and user conflicts. The increase in motorized trail opportunities is most significant in the Applegate River drainage on the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District.

The agency is proposing to “amend” existing management plans to allow motorized use in areas historically closed to OHV use or designated specifically for non-motorized uses. This would include designating motorized trails in the region’s Back Country Non-Motorized Areas, Research Natural Areas, Botanical Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas, impacting the values these areas were designated to protect. The decision shows clear bias towards OHV use and a lack of appreciation for the needs of non-motorized trail users.

Many miles of back country hiking trails are proposed to be designated for motorized trail use. Below are a few specific routes that are proposed for motorized use in the TMP, despite significant social and ecological concerns. Management direction in many of these areas currently exclude motorized use, which would change under this new TMP. 

Grayback Mountain/Boundary Trail

The Grayback Mountain Botanical Area at the headwaters of O’Brien Creek is proposed for motorized trail use.

The area known as the Grayback Range is a long, high elevation ridge running north from the Siskiyou Crest. The ridge runs for over 12 miles from Sucker Gap in the Red Buttes Wilderness, to Grayback Mountain above the rural community of Williams, Oregon. The ridgeline divides the Applegate River watershed from the Illinois River watershed and has long been proposed as an addition to the Red Buttes Wilderness. The area encompasses the Oregon portion of the Kangaroo Roadless Area, a 30,000-acre swath of roadless old-growth forest, high mountain meadows, small mountain lakes, and craggy summits. It is not only a hotspot for biodiversity, but also a hotspot for non-motorized back country recreation. 

The Boundary Trail, which traverses this scenic ridgeline, is a National Recreation Trail with a long history of non-motorized trail use. This trail system provides access to the Oregon Caves National Monument, as well as the Red Buttes Wilderness (where motorized use is prohibited) and is one of the region’s most treasured hiking and equestrian trails.

In 1990, due to the presence of numerous rare plant species and high quality wet meadow habitat, the LRMP designated the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area in Upper O’Brien Creek. They also prohibited motorized use off designated roads. The TMP specifically identifies a “high risk to
botanical resources” associated with motorized trail use in the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area; it also identifies very sensitive hydrology that could easily be disturbed. Despite these risks, the TMP is proposing motorized trail use in the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area.

The LRMP also designated the Boundary Trail and surrounding Forest Service lands as a Back Country Non-motorized Area, one of only two on the Rogue River National Forest. This designation also prohibited motor vehicle use in the area and was intended to promote more compatible non-motorized recreational opportunities.

Unfortunately, the agency never created a Forest Order Closure, which would have made these prohibitions legally enforceable, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts took advantage, stating that, although the use was prohibited, they would ride where they please. Rather than enforce
existing prohibitions and management regulations, the agency looked the other
way, allowing the use to continue despite clear prohibitions in the

Instead of finally creating a Forest Order Closure to implement the now 25-year-old motor vehicle prohibitions, the agency is proposing to allow motorized vehicle use throughout the area. The proposal includes designating numerous miles of the Boundary Trail along with the O’Brien Creek Trail, the Sturgis Fork Trail, and the Elk Creek Trail for motorized trail use.

The agency has proposed “plan amendments” that would alter current management plans to allow motorized use in a designated Back Country Non-Motorized Area. The proposed motorized trail system would also pass through the Grayback
Botanical Area and the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area, requiring
more plan amendments to codify OHV use in areas currently designated for non-motorized conservation-based management. OHV use would severely impact the area’s unique and important botanical values, ecological values, habitat connectivity, non-motorized recreational values, roadless character, and wildlife habitat.

Please let the Forest Service know you value the wild character, botanical diversity, and non-motorized recreational opportunities provided by the Grayback Mountain area and Boundary Trail. The Boundary Trail, Elk Creek Trail, O’Brien Creek Trail and Sturgis Fork Trail should all be closed to motorized use.

Little Grayback Trail

The Little Grayback Trail accesses the most scenic and remote sections of the Little Grayback Roadless Area. The trail should be closed to motorized traffic.

The Little Grayback Trail is perhaps the most diverse in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. It sustains high quality native grasslands and plant communities, as well as exceptional wildlife habitat. This is the wildest, most remote portion of the Little Grayback Roadless Area. 

In recent years unauthorized, user-created trails had been a problem in the area and land managers have just begun to minimize or eliminate this unauthorized and damaging OHV use. After all this, the area is now being proposed for motorized trail use in the TMP and no doubt, an increase in user-created trails and OHV impacts will follow.

The open nature of this landscape makes it particularly susceptible to damaging OHV use, and also particularly important for overwintering deer and elk dropping down from the high country of the Siskiyou Crest. The trail is also well known in the local hiking community as a quiet area with exceptional scenic beauty and recreational values. 

Local botanists enjoy the area for its diversity, its rare plant populations and the Lyman Gulch/Doe Hollow Botanical Area that was recently impacted by unauthorized OHV route development. Opening the remote area to motorized trail use is a green light to reestablish recently closed, user-created trails. These user-created trails included significant impacts to oak woodland habitats, old-growth conifer habitats, chaparral, intact grasslands, perennial streams, ephemeral streams, and the area’s roadless character.

Mule Mountain Trail System

The Mule Mountain Trail loops through one of the most intact watersheds in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. The trail is well loved by non-motorized users and should be closed to motorized traffic.

The Mule Mountain Trail system is a one of the most popular non-motorized hiking trails in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. It is also important winter range habitat for the region’s deer, elk, cougar, and other wildlife. Mule Creek is home to numerous spotted owls, who nest directly adjacent to the Mule Creek Trail, and would be impacted by noise disturbance associated with OHV use. 

The TMP is proposing to disregard seasonal
OHV closures for critical Deer Winter Range Habitat in the Mule Mountain
area. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with many local
residents have requested that the Mule Mountain trail system be managed
for non-motorized use. In recent years, a seasonal OHV closure has been
in effect from November 1 to May 1 to protect winter range values and
reduce stress to the area’s large herds of overwintering ungulates. The
Forest Service is disregarding these historic winter range protections
and opening the Mule Mountain area to year-round motorized use.

The Mule Mountain Trail begins on private land near Upper Applegate Road. This private land has granted the Forest Service a non-motorized trail easement and is subject to a year-round motor vehicle closure. The trail is adjacent to a rural residential area on Upper Applegate Road and OHV use will create conflict and noise disturbance to adjacent properties. Motorized use is simply not compatible with the quality of life enjoyed by nearby residences.

The trail system, consisting of the Mule Mountain Trail, Mule Creek Trail, Charlie Buck Trail, Baldy Mountain Trail, and Little Greyback Trail. It is found entirely within the Little Greyback Roadlless Area. The area is an increasingly rare, low-elevation habitat that is highly susceptible to off-road vehicle damage. In recent years, numerous user-created trails have impacted botanical, wildlife, and roadless area values to the detriment of other forest users and resources. Despite the long history of heavy non-motorized trail use, multiple forest order closures prohibiting motorized use, and historic OHV impacts, the Forest Service is proposing to open the area to motorized trail use, creating an off- road vehicle park at the edge of many residential homesteads and in the wildest back country remaining in the foothills of the Siskiyou Crest.  

Cook and Green Creek Trail

The Cook and Green Creek Trail is a popular place to access the Pacific Crest Trail and Red Buttes Wilderness Area, both closed to motorized use. The trail also provides access to the Cook and Green Pass Botanical Area. The trail should be closed to motorized traffic.

The Cook and Green Creek Trail is a popular non-motorized trail accessing the Kangaroo Roadless Area, Red Buttes Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Together with the Horse Camp Trail and PCT (which are both closed to OHV use), the Cook and Green Creek Trail makes a popular backpacking loop for hiking enthusiasts and equestrians. For decades this trail has been incorporated into backpacking loops in the Red Buttes Wilderness and has been treated as primitive backcountry. The area is known for its intact old-growth habitat, local spotted owl populations, and highly valuable non-motorized trail experience. 

The upper portions of the trail are protected as a Botanical Area, where OHV use has been prohibited in the Land and Resource Management Plan. The Forest Service claims that no rare plants are found in the vicinity of the trail, yet clearly have not looked very hard, as numerous rare orchid species including Cyprepedium californica, Cyprepedium fasiculatum, and Cyprepedium montanum can be found within feet of the existing trail tread.

The area was identified in the Middle Fork Watershed Analysis as supporting a particularly high density of stream crossing with a high probability of creating sedimentation and erosion in the mainstem of Cook and Green Creek. OHV use would compound that potential problem. The area is also within a Late Successional Reserve protected to encourage healthy old-growth habitat conditions, providing habitat and connectivity for late-seral wildlife species, such as the Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl. 

The Cook and Green Creek Trail should be closed to motorized use.

McGrew Trail

The McGrew Trail extends across the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, one of Oregon’s most remote and intact landscapes.  The region is a botanical treasure and contains some of the most pristine streams in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. The McGrew Trail should be permanently closed to all motorized use.

The McGrew Trail has long been a controversial OHV route, traversing the largest unprotected roadless area in the state of Oregon, and one of the most botanically diverse regions on the continent. The area also supports some of the most pristine waters and fishery resources in the west, including highly valuable tributary streams that feed the North Fork of the Smith River and West Fork of the Illinois River with high quality, cold water refugia.

Motorized use on the McGrew Trail will significantly increase the risk of spreading the deadly Port Orford Cedar Root Rot (Phytothera lateralis). In fact, motorized vehicle use has already been implicated in the spread of Phytothera in the area of upper Rock Creek adjacent to the McGrew Trail. Motorized use will also degrade the area’s roadless character, impact botanical resources and rare plant populations, and potentially impact the region’s exceptional water quality and fisheries habitat.

Historically, significant off-road damage has been sustained in the area around Sourdough Camp, at the mouth of Baldface Creek and on the North Fork of the Smith River. Rill and gully erosion is common along those sections of trail that receive motorized use, creating significant erosion and sedimentation. The most remote portions of the trail (beyond Cedar Springs) have been inaccessible to all classes of motorized vehicles for many years now. These areas are currently receiving no motor vehicle use. The designation of this route as a motorized trail is inconsistent with TMP guidelines that allow designation of trails only if they are currently receiving motorized use. The section of the McGrew Trail from Cedar Springs to Sourdough Camp has been impassable for many years and should be excluded from consideration as a motorized route.  

The Forest Service has proposed to allow motorized use under a special use permit system on the McGrew Trail. This would allow motorized use in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, the largest unprotected roadless area in the State of Oregon and in one of our wildest, most remote wilderness destinations: Sourdough Camp. They have claimed that all spur roads leading off the McGrew Trail will be closed to motorized use, yet the agency’s capacity to enforce these closures is minimal at best. Opening motorized trails in terrain as remote as the McGrew Trail will create a situation that is nearly impossible to monitor for impacts and enforce trail prohibitions.

Illinois River Trail

The Wild and Scenic Illinois River in the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The region is a botanical paradise and stronghold for native fisheries. It is also one of the region’s most spectacular whitewater rafting trips and wilderness destinations. Innumerable important values will be impacted by encouraging motorized use.

The Illinois River Trail is one of the primer wilderness trail experiences in Southwestern Oregon. Located within the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, the trail provides a long distance non-motorized trail of the highest quality and ecological importance. The Illinois River is also one of the most highly valued whitewater rafting resources in the west. Permitting motorized trail use on the Illinois River Trail will significantly degrade both hiking and whitewater rafting experiences through noise disturbance, physical impacts, and user conflicts.

The area is also a botanical hotspot, including many rare and usual plant species and plant communities that will be impacted by OHV use.

The Illinois River corridor was designated a Back Country Recreation Area in the Siskiyou National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. This designation prohibited motorized use within the lower Illinios River area and promoted non-motorized recreational pursuits. Amendments are proposed to the Siskiyou National Forest LRMP to codify OHV use in an area currently designated non-motorized use. 

The agency is proposing seasonal OHV use that would coincide with hunting season to allow for motorized hunting of deer, elk, and black bear. The proposal would badly degrade the wilderness experience, the area’s botanical resources, and coincide with recreational fishing season on this important wild and scenic river. Anglers, hikers, botanists, and the area’s wildlife will all be disturbed by this proposal. The Illinois River Trail should be closed to all forms of motorized use.

Silver Peak/Hobson Horn Trail

Silver Prairie has long been a spectacular wilderness destination in the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The rolling meadow habitat is very rare in the Kalmiopsis region and is highly susceptible to damaging OHV use and the development of user-created trails. The area is an important wildlife habitat better preserved as wilderness than treated as an off-road vehicle hunting preserve.

The Silver Peak/Hobson Horn Trail is one of the most remote and pristine areas in the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The area has long been proposed for wilderness designation, as a vital addition to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The trail climbs from the Illinois River Trail to Silver Peak. It once continued up the long, remote ridgeline to Hobson Horn. Today only four miles of the trail are passable and much of the trail has been lost due to lack of maintenance. The trail climbs very steeply to Silver Prairie, a large sloping meadow that is highly susceptible to OHV damage. Silver Prairie would be open to OHV use during the hunting season for elk, deer and black bear. The potential for lasting impacts is great and the capacity for the Forest Service to effectively monitor and enforce closures if unauthorized use develops is extremely minimal. 

Act Now!
The Siskiyou Mountains are Oregon’s most
botanically diverse and interesting mountain range, an increase in OHV
use will threaten that natural legacy. The Siskiyou Mountains also
support some of the wildest and most remote watersheds on the West
Coast. It is a unique mountain habitat that should be preserved in all
its integrity. The Siskiyou Mountains should not be a playground for off-road vehicle
abuse. This is our home and the home to many wild creatures; it is not a
sacrifice zone.

Klamath Forest Alliance and the Siskiyou Crest Blog will be working hard to oppose increased OHV use in the wild places of the Siskiyou Mountains. We intend to file an objection and work to organize local residents against the TMP.  Please consider supporting our efforts with a donation. Please identify your donation for the Siskiyou Mountain Fund. Donations can be made at the following in link: KFA Donations

Please contact Rob MacWhorter, Forest Supervisor for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and let him know you do not appreciate having our region sacrificed to extreme OHV use. Tell him you oppose motorized trail use in inventoried roadless areas, botanical areas, research natural areas, and Back Country Non-Motorized Areas. Mention the trails highlighted above and recommend OHV closure. 

Contact for Supervisor MacWhorter:

To view the entire document titled Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Motorized Vehicle Use on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest follow the link below:
Motor Vehicle Use FEIS