By RALPH ANSAMI email@example.com BESSEMER –
Copies of the Ottawa National Forest’s proposed motorized use plan that would take effect in 2018, opening more roads and trails to offhighway vehicle use, are available for review. In a letter to the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners, Ottawa Forest Supervisor Linda Jackson said the proposal seeks to change motorized vehicle use designation for several forest roads on the Ottawa, opening many to recreational use. A total of 568 miles of roads across the massive national forest are affected. About 86 miles or roads would be opened to off-highway vehicles only, while 428 miles of roads would be open to all vehicles, she said. That increases from the current 263 miles. In addition, there will be 78 miles of new roads, while 54 miles of roads will be closed for “resource protection reasons,” Jackson wrote in the Aug. 21 letter to the board. The proposal is now subject to an administrative review process. Objections will only be accepted from people or entities previously submitting “timely and specific written comments,” the letter said. In August 2016, a scoping letter was sent out to more than 270 potentially interested parties. A 30-day scoping comment period was held. Five open houses seeking comments were held across the Ottawa between Aug. 16 and Aug. 25, in Baraga, Iron River, Ewen, Ironwood and Watersmeet. According to Forest Service records, 171 public comments were received. The Ottawa also used a Collaborative Mapping Tool during the scoping comment period as a way for interested parties to submit comments using an internetbased application, according to Ottawa forest planner Marlanea French-Dombier. “Although I anticipate that this draft decision will not be acceptable to all, I believe that the modified proposed action is the best option to meet the purpose and need for the proposal, remain consistent with the forest plan and provide OHV recreationists additional riding opportunities,” French-Dombier wrote in an explanation of the decision. Prior to designating access for mixed vehicle use (highway legal vehicles and OHVs) on all higher standard roads, federal highway laws require a mixed use analysis. That would result in: —Rehabilitation of roadside ditches. —Road resurfacing, including spot surfacing and paving approaches of road-stream crossings where culverts are established or replaced. —Road widening and/or realignment for site distance, which may require tree removal. —Placement of “Share the Road” signs on any proposed road allowing mixed use travel. —Placement of “Narrow Road” signs on roads with narrow clearing limits. —When higher standard roads are being used for commercial log hauling, or other resource management projects involving heavy equipment use, providing signage or restricting the use of OHVs as needed to ensure a safe, mixed use environment. Gogebic County Board members on Wednesday stressed the need for proper signage with the road use changes. The affected roads and trails are located on the Bergland, Bessemer, Iron River, Kenton, Ontonagon and Watersmeet Ranger Districts in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron and Ontonagon counties. For more information, contact Susanne M. Adams, District Ranger, at the Ontonagon Ranger District (906-884- 2085) or email: smadamsgcgfsfedus. A copy of the plan is available at the county clerk’s office in the courthouse at Bessemer.