Closed forest roads protect elk, upset people

Closed forest roads protect elk, upset people

OAKRIDGE, Ore. -- Disgruntled trail riders, hunters, hikers and campers are not happy with the Forest Service over the closure of Flat Creek Road to motorized vehicles, but the district ranger says the road was closed via a public process to protect wildlife and prevent illegal dumping of trash.

The closure of roads to ATVs and other vehicles has become a hot topic in America's National Forests since a shift in 2005 in how the U.S. Forest Service manages motorized access to the lands the agency manages.

Under the rule, all National Forests had until the end of this year to decide which roads and trails would be designated as open to motorized vehicles. Under the old rules, all roads and trails were assumed to be open unless explicitly closed to travel.

Oakridge resident Floyd Staley doesn't want roads like Flat Creek closed to ATVs and other vehicles.

"The roads are public roads," said Staley (below). "This road is a public road."

Staley thinks gates like the one blocking Flat Creek Road are uncalled for.

"The Forest Service is just going over our head and closing everything -- access for the berry pickers, hunters," Staley said.

But the forest ranger said Flat Creek Road was closed not by the 2005 rule but under a local decision process to protect habitat and because trash was being dumped nearby.

"We went through a public process to come to a decision to close those roads," said Chip Weber, district ranger for the Middle Fork Ranger District said. "They have various reasons, and in some cases it's to protect sensitive wildlife areas, like elk calving grounds."

Road users say either way, the result's the same: reduced public access.

"They don't have any money allocated for clean-up, but they have plenty of money for blockage," Oakridge resident Jack Bodie said.