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Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project: Progress made at China Gulch

The closure posted on China Gulch restricts OHV use in the area to reduce disturbance to wildlife, reduce risk of forest fire, and minimize soil erosion.

The Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project is a grassroots public lands monitoring project focused on documenting the impact of OHV use in the Siskiyou Mountains. We are a project of the Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN), Klamath Forest Alliance and the Siskiyou Crest Blog. Last summer we published a detailed Monitoring Report documenting OHV impacts throughout the Applegate River watershed. We monitored both Forest Service and BLM lands, documenting unauthorized, user-created routes that were impacting riparian areas, botanical resources, wildlife, roadless areas, monarch butterfly habitat and other important resource values. 


One of the most egregious OHV issues in the Applegate Valley was documented to have been expanding out from the proposed, but still unapproved, John’s Peak OHV Emphasis Area. The area lies between the towns of Ruch and Jacksonville, Oregon on the edge of the Wellington Butte Roadless Area. OHV impacts are particularly acute in this area and unauthorized OHV routes are nearly always being developed into new habitats and sensitive areas. 

The China Gulch area northwest of Ruch, Oregon has been extremely hard hit with unauthorized, user-created trails crisscrossing the watershed, carving up meadows with compacted OHV routes, creating erosive hillclimbs, and utilizing seasonal streams as OHV trails. OHV closures and gates are regularly breached to access already heavily degraded OHV routes. 

A Google Earth image of China Gulch Meadows. The user-created OHV routes that are negatively impacting the meadows are very obvious in this image.

The China Gulch area is also partially included in the inventoried Wellington Butte Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC). The western half of the watershed is mostly wild and undisturbed, although OHV enthusiasts are beginning to enter the roadless portions of the watershed with unofficial OHV trails. The
Applegate Trails Association and others have proposed that the eastern
portion of China Gulch be closed to OHV use and included as a 1,300-acre
addition to the Wellington Butte LWC. The proposed Applegate Ridge Trail (ART) will traverse the upper reaches of China Gulch through both the proposed 1,300-acre addition and the currently inventoried LWC.



Looking south into Ruch, Oregon from the Oregon Belle Loop Road, a proposed portion of the Applegate Ridge Trail. The oak woodlands, grasslands, and chaparral fields of eastern China Gulch should be included as an addition to the Wellington Butte LWC.



The eastern half of the watershed has been badly damaged by OHV use and the broad grassy meadows at the headwaters of China Gulch have been torn to pieces by unauthorized OHV routes. Our OHV Monitoring Reports placed significant emphasis on the area around China Gulch, and after a year of advocacy, stubborn persistence, and pressure placed on BLM land managers, the agency has finally acted. 


In late May the BLM implemented a project to reinforce the gated portion of China Gulch Road, close down hillclimbs, protect the China Gulch meadow system from further OHV abuse, and close the long-gated, but heavily utilized Oregon Belle Loop Road. This primitive old mining track is proposed as a portion of the non-motorized Applegate Ridge Trail. It has long been closed to motorized use with a large yellow gate, but OHV enthusiasts have created access routes for motorbikes, quads and full sized trucks around the existing closure. These routes were decommissioned and made impassable with debris. Closure of the Oregon Belle Loop Road is another step towards respectful public use, responsible public access and the protection of public resources. Yet, the BLM still has work to do as more routes leading into the China Gulch basin are in need of closure. 

Boulders now line the margin of China Gulch Meadow and China Gulch Road in an attempt to eliminate impacts associated with OHV use.

Recently the BLM placed boulders around the gate on China Gulch Road to reinforce the motor vehicle closure, and they dug “tank traps” and created impassable berms on erosive hillclimbs, as well as lining over 700′ of China Gulch Meadow with boulders to restrict vehicle access. Although this is a commendable effort by BLM, motorbike tracks have already entered the area and continued monitoring will be necessary to enforce this important closure.
 

The Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project will be active again this summer, monitoring routes, documenting impacts and advocating for OHV closure in damaged or inappropriate areas. We will be working to institute regular citizen monitoring in the China Gulch area. If you are in the area, please consider sending me an update and some photographs at: siskiyoucrest@gmail.com

Please consider helping us by monitoring OHV routes, snapping photographs and sending us your findings. Document OHV impacts and illegal activities wherever you see them. We will compile all information possible for inclusion in the 2016 OHV Monitoring Report. Let us know what you see in your backyard!

Support our efforts with volunteer monitoring or a tax deductible donation. Donations can be sent to KS Wild (our fiscal sponsor) with a note that the donation is supporting ANN or the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project. 


Send donations to:
Online Donation 
    -or-
KS Wild 
PO Box 102
Ashland, Oregon 97520 

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