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Forest Service Proposes More Motor Trails for Little Naches

In April, the Forest Service released an environmental assessment on a new recreation management plan for the Little Naches River basin, northeast of Chinook Pass. The Forest Service acknowledged that 20 years of study have shown a dramatic increase in impact to resources from motorized use in the valley. The agency is struggling with the impacts of jeeps and motorbikes being driven through streams and meadows, and the historic Naches Pass Wagon Trail being turned into a series of mud holes.

While the preferred alternative (#2) would remove over 50 miles of unauthorized motorbike trails that have scarred the valley, it would build a similar amount of trail for ORVs. The proposal would build new trails for “quads” (the smaller 4-wheel drive machines that require trails wider than motorbikes) including 3 sets of “learner loops” near the river.

No segment of the Little Naches River is without roads, motor trails or both. Under the preferred alternative, that would not change, nor would there be any improvement in security habitat for wildlife such as wolverines or spotted owls. There would be no additions to non-motorized trails, such as in the Blowout Mtn. roadless area. The proposal would provide no low elevation non-motorized trails. The EA assumes that those not on machines will go to the Norse Peak Wilderness; however, this and the nearby William O. Douglas Wilderness are both above 2,800 feet in elevation.

Alternative #3, which the EA described as maximizing protection of resources, had no road decommissioning and over 30 miles of new quad trails, and no improvement in habitat for sensitive species. Executive Order #11644 requires the Forest Service to minimize resource impacts from ORVs and conflicts between users; the Forest Service drew up the plan for what it sees as “traditional users” - that is, motorbikes and jeeps. Hikers, horseback riders, and birders, were hardly considered in the plan.

The comment period lasted only 30 days, but you can always tell the Forest Service your thoughts on managing our National Forests.

To view the plan: www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee/projects

For more info or to send comments: Susan Ranger - sranger@fs.fed.us, (509) 653-1446.