Voice Your Support For Continued MTB Access: The Colville National Forest Plan Revision
A sample letter is available at the bottom of this blog post to guide your comments.
The Draft Colville Forest Plan has been released and public comments are due by July 5th, 2016. This is the final step in a multi-year Plan Revision effort, and the final plan will govern this amazing 1.1 million-acre National Forest for the next 15 years or more.
Basically, a Forest Plan is a strategic plan that guides land and recreation management and access, defines what may or may not be allowed in sections of the forest, and determines how each section should be maintained.
In late May, Will Stone (President of Evergreen East) and I completed a tour of the Colville Forest. We met with local representatives and rode several trails to help inform Evergreen’s comments to the Forest Plan. The pictures in this blog are from our trip.
Why does this matter to you? Because the plan affects mountain bike access to some of the best high alpine backcountry mountain bike trails in Washington State!
In the current preferred alternative (alternative P), approximately 80 miles of multi-use trail is included in areas recommended as wilderness If this is adopted, the Forest Service could decide to immediately CLOSE these trails to mountain biking. Once the proposed wilderness areas are designated as Wilderness by Congress, mountain bikers are legally restricted from ever riding there again.
We need your help to voice strong support for continued mountain bike access!
While this all may seem scary, there’s a lot of good news in this plan too. We commend the Forest Service for their hard work in finding a balanced solution between protecting habitat and natural resources, non-motorized and motorized recreation access, and opportunities for continued economic vitality and resilience for the surrounding communities.
Alternative P is a good solution for mountain bikers, but we are asking for a few modifications before the plan is finalized and adopted.
In alternative P’s current form, a portion of the Kettle Crest south of Sherman Pass is proposed as Recommended Wilderness, as well as a large area of the Sellkirk Mountains surrounding Abercrombie Peak.
If the Forest Service would keep these two areas open to biking by designating them as Recreation Special Interest Area (“SIA”) or backcountry, Evergreen can support all other proposed wilderness in the preferred alternative (as those areas do not impact high value mountain biking trails, and offer incredible conservation and habitat benefits for bears, lynx, elk, and many other species).
The ecological value of this Forest is immense. It functions as a wildlife corridor for migratory species from Canada, through the Sellkirks and the Crest, to the Cascades. The trails we are asking to be removed from the wilderness corridors would not impact connectivity in these wildlife corridors and still offer the habitat protection and backcountry recreation areas we care so much about.
Here are the primary points we want you to convey in your comments to the Forest Service:
- The Recreation Special Interest Area (SIA) is a good designation to protect natural resources and recreational access. It’s good for mountain bikers! Management of the SIA should be restricted to human and equestrian-powered recreation, and should allow chain saw and other motorized trail maintenance equipment.
- The Bald/White/Snow proposed wilderness should be changed and included in the SIA. This supports a consistent and single management designation for all of the Kettle Crest, and should simplify management by designating the entire Crest as one coherent recreational and geological resource.
- An SIA cannot exceed 100 miles. To stay within this limit, the recommended SIA stretching east-west from Jungle hill to Hoodoo/Coyote Mountain could be changed to Wilderness or Backcountry.
- The White and Ed’s Mountain trails connect to Thirteen Mile Trail, offering an epic long distance riding opportunity close to the community of Republic. Mountain bike access to these trails should not be lost.
- The Abercrombie Mountain and Silver Creek trails should be removed from recommended wilderness designation. As the second highest peak in eastern Washington, the Abercrombie Peak and Silver Creek loop ride is unlike any other in the State, and should be preserved for mountain bikers. Wilderness designation could be preserved for land surrounding the trail corridor, as long as mountain biking and chain saw maintenance is allowed on the trail itself.
A SAMPLE LETTER can be found below to help guide your comments. Please take time to make this letter personal and unique, and if you have ridden the trail, let the Forest Service know what your experience was like and how this unique riding experience cannot be replaced elsewhere if mountain bike access is lost. Customizing your letter will maximize your impact.
Your opportunity to comment on the Proposed Action ends on Tuesday, July 5th so please Take Action NOW! This is a BIG issue, so we need lots of support from you and all your riding friends! Let the Forest Service know it is important to you to be able to ride the Sellkirks and Kettle Crest now, and into the future.
Finally, join us for KettleFest July 13-17. We will camp at Jungle Hill, right off of Sherman Pass on Highway 20, for 4 days of epic riding and trail maintenance work parties.
If you haven’t experienced the Kettles in this remote NE corner of our State, this is the summer to make it happen! With the potential to draw hundreds of riders and yet still feel remote and wild – the Colville NF offers a riding destination that will make you want to come back year after year. I look forward to seeing you there, along with the rest of the Evergreen Team!
NOTE: Please be aware that all comment letters and contact information are included in the project record for this project, and will be posted to the Forest Service Reading Room for public viewing.
Note: please write this letter in your own words for the most impact.
Amy Dillon, Forest Plan Revision Team
Colville National Forest, Colville Supervisor’s Office
765 South Main. Colville, Washington 99114
Dear Amy and the Forest Management Plan Revision team,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Forest Management Plan Revision. As a mountain biker, this plan is of high importance to me as it will determine mountain bike access for the next 15 years or more.
The riding experience in the Colville National Forest is one that cannot be replaced elsewhere. (INSERT – My personal riding experience here is……., and I hope to preserve this opportunity for future riders and visitors).
The extensive trail networks in the Colville National Forest offer the key ingredients required for multi-day mountain bike riding experiences. The region as a whole has great potential to become a national riding destination. This promises low-impact non-motorized trail use and significant economic benefit for communities in Northeast Washington. The ecological and trail resources make this Forest a unique place to ride, and it is of utmost importance to me that mountain bike access is maintained and improved throughout the implementation timeframe of the next Forest Management Plan.
I commend you for your thoughtful approach and thoroughness of the draft plan and preferred alternative. Alternative P is a good solution for both motorized and non-motorized recreational access, ecological integrity, and regional economic resiliency. However, two highly valued mountain bike trail systems would be lost due to proposed wilderness designations in Alternative P. For this reason, I strongly encourage you to implement the following two changes to the plan:
- The proposed Bald/Snow/White wilderness designation eliminates a contiguous Kettles Crest riding experience, as well as connection to Thirteen Mile Trail. Bald/Snow/White should be included in the SIA. This unifies all of the Kettle Crest under one management designation and preserves the unique north-south Crest riding experience, as well as un-interrupted access to the Pacific Northwest Trail. This can be accomplished by changing the Coyote Mountain/Hoodoo roadless area to backcountry or wilderness.
- The Abercrombie Mountain and Silver Creek trails should be removed from recommended wilderness, and instead designated as backcountry, or another SIA. The Abercrombie and Silver Creek loop should be preserved for mountain bikers as this high alpine riding experience cannot be replicated elsewhere in WA.
With the above changes incorporated, I fully endorse Alternative P. It facilitates trail maintenance needs with chainsaws, allows the Kettle Crest to be designated as one uniform management designation, in turn making it easier to promote and market it as a MUST VISIT contiguous geological, ecological, and recreational destination!
Thank you again for your hard work and opportunity to voice my strong support for maintained mountain bike access to the awe-inspiring trails of the Colville National Forest.