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BLM's final UDRMP closes Bend's Badlands WSA to motorized use!


BLM closes Badlands to motorized vehicles in new management plan
The Bulletin
October 17, 2005
By Yoko Minoura

In a victory for conservation groups, the Badlands were declared off-limits to motorized vehicles under the management plan adopted by the Bureau of Land Management.

"Effectively, it closes one road, Route 8, that was open year round and a lot of other roads that were open seasonally," BLM recreation planner Greg Currie said.

A desert area roughly 15 miles east of Bend, the Badlands have been a longtime bone of contention between conservation groups and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. Route 8 bisects the area.

The final Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan sets out guidelines for the management of roughly 400,000 acres of public land, Currie said, extending from Sisters to the Prineville Reservoir, north to Lake Billy Chinook and south to La Pine. The Badlands under BLM management cover only about 32,000 acres.

"The Badlands are certainly not the only place we have a change in management direction," he said. But the Badlands grabbed headlines during the comment period on the plan earlier this year. In March, the Deschutes County Commission voted 2-1 to take no position on allowing motorized vehicles in the Badlands. Commissioner Mike Daly cast the dissenting vote.

The final plan includes provisions for ranchers to give up grazing rights on public land. Rancher Ray Clarno, whose grazing permit included roughly two-thirds of the Badlands area, voluntarily relinquished his permit Thursday, according to release from the Oregon Natural Desert Association, a Bend environmental group.

Route 8 through the Badlands will remain open for the time being, while BLM officials work with landowners whose property is only accessible from that road. Signs and maps will be posted, Currie said, and gates and fencing will eventually be installed to keep recreational vehicles away.

Hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting and overnight camping are still allowed in the Badlands. The plan closed the area to motorized vehicles partly in response to high demand from nonmotorized users, Currie said.

But although the plan closes the Badlands to off-road motorized use, off-road enthusiasts will gain year-round access to trails in the area north of Millican. Currently, the area is closed during the winter.

The plan also calls for new off highway vehicle trails and play areas in the Millican Plateau to accommodate users.

"We're definitely looking to balance uses but also maintain the natural resources and cultural resource values of the public lands," Currie said.

"I think it's a great victory for the BLM," said Tracy Bowerman of the Oregon Natural Desert Association. "I think they've done a good job with a very difficult task, with weighing many varied uses in the Upper Deschutes.

The Badlands are a Wilderness Study Area, which means it has been flagged by the BLM as an area with significant natural features that merit the protection of a wilderness designation.

"The old-growth juniper, the geologic features, those were things that in part let it be designated as a Wilderness (Study Area)," Currie said. The permanent wilderness designation, however, requires an act of U.S. Congress.

Bowerman said the Oregon Natural Desert Association will continue its efforts to secure the designation for the Badlands, she said the finalized plan is a giant step forward.

Aside from its permanence, the main difference a wilderness designation would make would be to prohibit mechanized vehicles - bikes - within the area, Currie said. He said the adoption of the management plan is only the start in a process that will take many years to complete.

"It really sets out a fairly large amount of work to be done at a time when, 1 think, public involvement and public assistance in implementing these decisions on the ground is going to be critical," Currie said. "It's providing a blueprint for how BLM manages the lands in Central Oregon for the next 10 to 15 years or more."

Copies of the plan area available at Deschutes Public Library System branches in Bend, Redmond and La Pine and at the BLM district office in Prineville. Members of the public can also request a copy or find out more by calling the district office at 416-6700.




"Badlands Wilderness Study Area Closed To Motorized Use"
October 25, 2005

"After several years of collaborative effort, the Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan (UDRMP) has been completed. In September 2005, the UDRMP and Record of Decision (ROD) was signed by Elaine M. Brong, BLM Oregon/Washington State Director, making the management policy in the UDRMP effective immediately. The UDRMP provides guidance for the management of over 400,000 acres of BLM administered lands in Central Oregon.

The Badlands Wilderness Study Area is frequently visited by a variety of public land users year-round. One of the key issues in the planning process was how to provide a diversity of recreation settings or opportunities throughout BLM administered lands in Central Oregon. The UDRMP /ROD identified the Badlands as an area managed exclusively for non-motorized use, with other areas identified for creation of additional trail networks for motorized use.

The closure of the Badlands WSA represents approximately 8 percent of the BLM administered lands within the planning area (400,000 acres). Approximately 80 percent of the planning area remains open to motorized use year-round or seasonally on designated routes.

The decisions in the ROD provide a diverse range of recreation opportunities and reflect our commitment to ensure wilderness values are protected by managing visitor use in a manner that does not impair these values. The Badlands WSA will be managed under the guidelines in the UDRMP and BLM's interim management policy for lands under wilderness review, until Congress makes a final determination on including the area as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System or releasing it for other uses.

For more information on Badlands WSA management or management of recreation uses throughout BLM administered lands in Central Oregon, please contact Prineville BLM at 541­416-6700."


Note: The prototype trails map handout is shown above. Roland Giller, USFS Spokesperson, notes a new fancy map of approved trails (hopefully with UTM gridlines) is in the works. Trailhead improvements, vehicle proof gates and better signage will follow.  --Webmeister Speik




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