News from the Forest Service:.
NACHES—Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest motorized trails on the Naches Ranger District will be closed to all motorized traffic until June 15 unless posted as being open.
Forest Service managers decided to implement the closure for motorized trail traffic after discussions with law enforcement officers, state land managers and the public showed a need to better manage trail systems.
“Discussions focused on heavy use periods during the spring when melting snow and periods of high precipitation lead to trail damage,” said Naches District Ranger Irene Davidson. “Through very constructive dialogue and comments from the public we found the majority of users were in one way or another in favor of a temporary closure.”
The closure is intended to minimize impacts to travel routes, camping areas and natural resources during the spring when trails are most susceptible to damage from heavy use. Recent surveys have shown a growing trend in recreation use on the 4-million-acre national forest, particularly with off-highway vehicle users.
“One huge component of the closure discussion focuses on enforcement,” Davidson said. She said illegally riding vehicles in closed areas or on closed roads has been a growing trend and law enforcement challenge. Often, citations issued by law enforcement officers do not deter illegal riding because fines are relatively low, Davidson said.
Yakima County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Sutliff said the fine for driving non-street legal vehicles on Forest Service roads is about $134. Many people who spend $5,000 on a motorized vehicle are not deterred by the fine, he said.
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer Alan Baird said the initial $134 fine can increase dramatically due to additional equipment fines related to bumpers, mud flaps and lights.
County, state and federal agencies will combine patrol efforts this year across the ranger district to discourage use of closed trails. Forest Service employees will patrol the ranger district at all hours during the holiday educating trails users and enforcing the closure order.
Motorized user groups, Forest Service law enforcement officers and Yakima County Sheriff’s Office reserve officers will work together to conduct patrols across the Naches Ranger District over the holiday.
“Our intentions are to contact as many people as we can to provide information about the trail closure and answer any questions they might have,” said Naches Ranger District Resource Assistant Jacqueline Beidl.
Naches Ranger District Recreation Planner Sue Ranger said Forest Service employees and qualified volunteers are now checking trails for downed trees and trail damage that occurred from use last year. She believes recent heavy rains have caused significant trail damage across the ranger district.
Ranger said she plans to open trails as they dry out if she determines they are safe and trail tread will not be compromised by use.
“It should prove to be an interesting Memorial Day weekend, especially with the recent storms that swept across the state,” said Naches Ranger District Visitor Services Specialist Doug Jenkins. “Damage across our district has forced the closure of several access roads. Crews have a big job ahead of them surveying roads, trails and campgrounds for damage. It’s going to be difficult trying to keep people informed of everything going on with only a week to go before the holiday.”
Jenkins said Okanogan-Wenatchee N.F. visitors can call 509-653-1400 and listen to a recording with updated campground and trail information. He said the Naches Ranger Station foyer do is always open and will also have updates.
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.