Oregon – Ochoco National Forest Summit Trail Project

Overview

The Ochoco National Forest completed a uniquely thorough and thus protracted process to designate “roads, trails and areas that are open to motor vehicle use” under the Forest Service’s Travel Management Rule (TMR).  Unlike most forests, which initially responded to the TMR by starting from a “baseline” of thousands of miles of motorized roads/trails and designating a subset of those for continuing motorized travel, the Ochoco Forest figuratively wiped the slate clean by issuing an order allowing travel on only 26 miles of forested trails and immediately closing 88 percent of the Forest previously available for motorized use.

The Summit Trail Project is the Ochoco’s effort at restoring some level of suitable off-highway vehicle riding opportunity in less than half of the Forest. The Forest issued not one, but two, lengthy (not to mention expensive) environmental impact statements and invested thousands of hours studying/disclosing potential impacts and engaging the public. The fruit of this caution and these efforts is a multi-pronged and occasionally caustic attack from an array of professional advocates, connected organizations, former agency employees, the state wildlife management agency, and spirited individuals.

On September 28, 2017, Off-highway Vehicle groups filed to become parties in a lawsuit involving vehicle access to central Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest. The groups seek to defend the Forest Service’s Summit Trail Project decision, which designates routes for vehicle travel. The case was filed by WildEarth Guardians, Oregon Wild, the Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and is assigned to Judge Patricia Sullivan, in the Pendleton Division of the U.S. District of Oregon.

A response to the motion is due in mid-October. It is likely that the merits of the case will be presented to the Court in early 2018.

“This project reflects excruciating analysis and patience by the agency and affected user groups,” said Larry Ulrich, President of the Ochoco Trail Riders. “This decision does not imperil wildlife or threaten new motorized access. It reduces historical trail mileage and the approved trails are carefully designated to minimize impacts to resources and provide a spectrum of visitor opportunities. This is a state of the art effort by the Forest Service which should be applauded, not overturned,” Ulrich concluded.  

The Trail Riders are joined in the motion by the Oregon Motorcycle Riders Association, the Deschutes County 4 Wheelers, the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, and the BlueRibbon Coalition. The vehicle groups are seeking to defend the decision in court alongside the U.S. Forest Service. They are represented by Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho.

Current Status

Want to know where your support goes? Please take the time to read the following briefs concerning the fight for access in the Ochoco National Forest. Our attorney, Paul Turcke, is the best at what he does and his skillful response is exactly what we are about. Salute Paul, and thank you supporters who make this possible. This is you speaking as well.

Objections were filed on September 24, 2018, to the Magistrate’s Findings and Recommendations in the Ochoco case.  Responses are due in mid-October.  These will be considered by a district judge, who can adopt the F&R, in whole or in part, or issue an entirely new decision.  We do not have oral argument scheduled and in my experience it is not typically conducted on review of F&R, but is theoretically possible.

Pleadings

LEGAL BRIEFS (click to view/download):
Central Oregon Landwatch Brief
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Brief
Oregon Hunters Association Brief
Wildearth Guardian Brief

USFS & OHV Defendant Intervenors Brief (Our Response)

Lawsuits threaten IMMEDIATE CLOSURE of OHV trails!
Please help us defend trails against aggressive environmentalist attack.