Forest seeks OHV input

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By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Friends and foes of off-highway vehicles have until May 5 to comment about the Forest Service's draft management plan for trails near Arnold.

Stanislaus National Forest officials released the Interface Recreation Trails Draft Environmental Impact Statement late Tuesday.

In it are six alternatives for managing land commonly known as "the Interface," a swath of forest rimmed with homes and crisscrossed with OHV trails.

The proposals include, at one extreme, no change; and at the other extreme, closing the land to any vehicle that is not street-legal, making many of the trails accessible only on foot or mountain bikes. The other four proposals are compromises combinations of opening new roads and closing old ones.

In its analysis of the 8,700 acres in the Calaveras Ranger District near Arnold, the Forest Service notes that in the past 10 years, both houses and the OHV riders have gone up in numbers.

The EIS examines the environmental and social effects of each of the six alternatives and looks for a way to balance benefits for people and the land, Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn said.

But some wonder if a balance is possible.

OHV riders especially those who live nearby and are too young to get driver's licenses like the Interface because they can get to dirt bike trails from their homes.

Then there are the neighbors who must deal with four-wheelers whizzing by during a Sunday barbecue.

"I don't want them off the planet, I just don't want them in my backyard," said Judith Spencer, president of Commitment to Our Recreational Environment. CORE is a Calaveras County group opposing OHV use near subdivisions. Spencer and her husband, Bob, live in a house that backs up to a popular OHV road.

Even Don Amador western representative for Blue Ribbon Coalition, a national OHV group expressed dismay with Tuesday's report.

"I think the forest made a mistake by only studying the 8,700 acres in the Interface, instead of looking at surrounding forest land," Amador said. He suggested retiring trails near houses and trading them for new trails elsewhere in the forest away from residences.

"There's a win-win situation here, but the forest has to look at the broad landscape," Amador said.

Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@uniondemocrat.com .

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