Proposed seasonal road closure ires lands council
|The proposed road closure will affect the Mary's Lake road which is a popular spot for fall hunting.|
Mesia Nyman, district ranger with the US Forest Service, told the Emery County Public Lands Council about a seasonal road closure being considered. "Seasonal road closures are put in place at the discretion of the local supervisor for the protection of the forest roads, winter range and wildlife," Nyman began.
"We have seasonal closures in place on Horn Mountain at the present time. The only road on Horn that remains open during the winter months is the main road and that is for the communication tower access for the county. People are ignoring the road closures and traveling off the main road anyway. So we have proposed to put a gate in just south of Joe's Valley reservoir and before the Mary's Lake road," stated Nyman.
Lands councilmember Jim Gilson questioned Nyman about the access to the mountain and the surrounding area beneath Mary's Lake for hunters, both late elk and cougar, and other recreationists. "With the forest service's failure to enforce its closures, this means you are closing our land and locking out thousands of people because you can't enforce your laws," said Gilson.
Nyman responded with the cost effectiveness of this gated option. "A gate would cost around $500 and to have enforcement officers on the mountain at all times would require many, many thousands. We don't have the budget for that. I know enforcement is difficult, and I know we have to make concessions for those hunters with late cow tags. Our real problems are coming from the shed horn hunters in the spring when the roads are muddy or impassable. They seem to want to travel across country and not stay on the roads," Nyman said.
Nyman said the Division of Wildlife Resources has not requested this road closure action, although they would not object to it. She stated the closure would be seasonal only and is supervisor ordered. Closures of this kind do not require a NEPA study, and can be expanded or contracted.
Gilson suggested a seasonal road closure to be later in the year which would allow the hunters and others into the area, and restrict the horn hunters who are doing the damage to the roads.
Lands councilmember Gary Petty stated he agreed with the closure. He felt it was the full sized vehicles doing the damage and not ATVs. Nyman stressed the point that the issue is not tearing up the roads, but stressing the animals. "Our seasonal closures in place now are not effective," said Nyman.
Mark H Williams said he agreed with Gilson. "We need more enforcement not more closure," said Williams. He suggested the forest service put up more signage to let people know exactly what roads are closed and why.
|Access to the Mary's Lake road would be cut off during the winter months if the proposed gate is installed near Joe's Valley reservoir. |
Another seasonal closure being proposed by Nyman is near Grassy Lake. The proposal is to install a gate to close the South Reeder trail. Another proposed change is on the Hole Trail. The seasonal closure already in place there will be moved out closer to the Muddy River and will not allow travel as far into the canyon. The closure will probably be moved to the forest service boundary.
Another matter discussed by Nyman was one road and one trail that have never been opened by the forest service for motorized travel and are being traveled regularly. One is the Olsen Canyon road and the other is the portion of the Great Western Trail that runs from Grassy Lake to Pete's Hole.
Olsen Canyon road has never been on the forest service travel maps. It was inadvertently left off the route management plan, so it is considered a closed route. Users continue to remove the sign and travel the route illegally. Nyman proposes to make the closure more permanent by a higher and stronger barrier.
Emery County Commissioner Jeff Horrocks told Nyman if the forest service would open that route, it would be a good compromise with the public. "It has been used for, probably 75 years or more and I feel it would be beneficial for the forest service to open it," said Commissioner Horrocks.
Following some discussion of this route, the decision was made by Nyman to put this route on the priority list for opening. It will require a NEPA be done and will take several years, and will probably be limited to less than 52 inch vehicles only.
For the time being, the Olsen Canyon road will remain closed and enforcements will be put in place until the road is formally opened through the process. The suggestion was made to install signage to explain the situation to the users.
After the trail discussion, Councilman Gilson asked about the beetle killed trees which are falling across roads and trails. Nyman said that users are encouraged to carry saws and to cut the trees out of the trail and not make additional routes around the trees. Next year a project will begin which will allow the dead timber from along roads and trails and around campgrounds to be removed for safety reasons.