On July 13, 2017, Crag filed a detailed complaint on behalf of Central Oregon LandWatch to a Forest Service decision to carve up the Ochoco National Forest by creating a 137-miles off-road vehicle (ORV) route system. The Forest Service released the final decision on this Project at the end of June, and the decision has barely changed from earlier drafts despite broad and consistent opposition from a wide variety of groups including hunters, local citizens, recreationists, and biologists.
The proposed Ochoco Summit Trail System Project would cut through the heart of the Ochoco National Forest, which is east of Prineville and provides habitat for many species, including elk and redband trout. This stunning pine forest also provides for recreational activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, and photography that visitors and residents enjoy. The most recent data collected by the Forest Service shows that only 3.4% of visitors used an ORV for recreation, yet the proposed ORV routes will cost at least half a million dollars and cause significant disturbance to all other recreation types.
Beyond impacts to other forest visitors, the proposed ORV route system would damage riparian areas, spread invasive species, and displace and cause stress to vulnerable wildlife. The Ochoco National Forest has already seen some of these impacts from the nearly 700 miles of illegal ORV routes in the Project area, and the forest ecosystem cannot handle any additional adverse impacts.
Crag’s legal challenge to the Project relies on expert opinions from former Forest Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employees, as well as an expert hydrologist. Based on current conditions in the Ochoco National Forest, the Forest Service disregarded a number of environmental laws in place to protect wildlife habitat, water quality, and sensitive ecosystems. As part of this legal challenge, Crag is standing up to the Forest Service in federal court to hold the agency accountable, defending the public’s right to balanced use of our public lands, healthy wildlife habitat, and high-quality recreational opportunities now and for future generations.