BHA Opposes, HR4272: Forest Access in Rural Communities Act

A letter expressing our concerns...

elk-backpackingBackcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national conservation organization that was founded around a campfire in Oregon by a group of passionate sportsmen who saw a need to address the threats to our wild public lands from an increasingly mechanized society.

Since its founding ten years ago, BHA has grown to seventeen state chapters and one in British Columbia. Its rapid growth attests to the value sportsmen place on the wild character of those lands. It is because of those values that BHA opposes HR 4272, the Forest Access in Rural Communities Act.

The bill, sponsored by Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, would prohibit the US Forest Service from implementing and enforcing its Travel Management Rule, and require any change in open-road densities on national forests to be signed-off on by local counties. The intent of the bill is to take management decisions out of the hands of the Forest Service and put them in the hands of local communities. The Forest Service uses the best available science as well as the social context when considering open-road densities.  Keeping the responsibility for open-road densities within the Forest Service will help to ensure that impacts of roads on wildlife habitat and security are part of the decision making matrix.

Our national forests belong to all Americans, not just local citizens. Many sportsmen travel long distances to hunt and fish on public lands, and in so doing help support local economies. They place a high value on the quality of the habitat, and abundant hunting and fishing opportunities. Excessive and unregulated motorized travel robs them of both.

Studies conducted at Starkey Experimental Research station in Oregon, and in Idaho and Colorado leave no doubt whatsoever about the negative impact motor vehicles have on elk and deer. As unregulated motor vehicle traffic increases, elk and deer seek more remote areas, or move to private land where the pressure is less intense. The ones that remain on public land face higher mortality rates from poaching and other factors, resulting in fewer big game tags being made available to legal hunters. This is happening now, and is an increasing problem across our state. Managing travel is essential to stemming this trend.

Forest Service travel plans prohibit travel off designated routes, and in some areas reduce redundancies in open roads so that densities are more compatible with the needs of wildlife. These goals still allow for reasonable motorized access and should be supported, not just by sportsmen, but also by local communities who depend on sportsmen for their economic vitality.

The Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan has already been implemented on every national forest in Oregon, except the Wallowa-Whitman. It would be needlessly burdensome, and expensive to gut them now. Local county officials are not land managers, and haven’t the background in wildlife biology, botany, soil science, hydrology, entomology, etc. to make informed decisions on what is best for our wild public lands, wildlife, and water.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers strongly urges all stakeholders who value wild country to email Congressman Greg Walden and tell him you want to keep intact the Forest Service’s process for creating, implementing and enforcing land management decisions.

Email Congressman Greg Walden here:

Thank you,

Ed Putnam, Co-Chair

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers – Oregon Chapter


Photo Courtesy of Aron Snyder

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