WALKER - Chippewa National Forest will receive comments until May 17 on four proposed alternatives to how many of that forest's existing roads should be open to off-highway vehicle use.
A copy of the environmental assessment of road use in the forest is available on the Chippewa National Forest Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/chippewa/projects/ or from the forestry office at 200 Ash Ave. N.W., Cass Lake, MN 56633 or by phone at (218) 335-8600. Comments should be submitted to Robert Harper at the U.S. Forest Service in Cass Lake.
Ann Long Voelkner, Chippewa National Forest recreational planner, reported Tuesday to Cass County commissioners on four proposals to classify Chippewa roads as open or closed. Alternatives were developed from comments received at public meetings in the last year.
All roads in the plans are existing forest service roads, she said. Consideration of any additional recreational trails beyond existing roads will be evaluated as a part of a future plan separate from this road use plan, she said.
The forest service will select one of the four plans by June. Maps reflecting the final choice will be printed for public use by January, 2008, Voelkner said. New road use identification signs will be installed by the end of this year.
Alternative No. 1 would make no changes from the existing Chippewa road designations. Of the 1,530 road miles open to public use, only 58 include connections and loops, 507 miles are dead end roads, all are open to both recreational off-highway vehicles and regular passenger cars and trucks and another 998 road miles are closed to off-road vehicles.
Alternative No. 2 would open 1,384 miles to public use, with 1,270 of those open to off-road vehicles and 244 miles of connections and loops, 288 dead-end road miles and 1,143 road miles closed to off-road vehicles.
Alternative No. 3 would open 880 miles to public use, with 847 of those open to off-road vehicles and 179 miles of connecting loops, two miles of dead-end roads and 1,629 road miles closed to off-road vehicles.
Alternative No. 4 is the only alternative proposed to permit opening additional roads to hunters seasonally between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31. It includes 1,777 miles open to the public, with 1,042 open to off-highway vehicles and 279 miles of connecting loops, 482 miles of dead end roads and 732 miles closed to off-road vehicles.
The environmental evaluation showed that Alternative No. 3, which restricts off-road vehicles from many marshy areas and stream crossings, would have the least environmental impact and cause the least conflict with bald eagles, wolves and lynx living in the Chippewa. However, that alternative provides the least connecting routes for off-road riders and does not include adding roads for fall hunter use.
With any of the alternatives, Chippewa Forest officials likely will continue to close some roads temporarily during the spring thaw to prevent damage, which does not occur as readily during normal weather conditions the rest of the year.
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