Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Still Time to Comment on Manistee NF Quiet Areas

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Bowman Lake Semi-Primitive Area (photo by jhy)

by JHY

You have until December 23 to comment on the following situation in the Manistee.

Some people may be aware of a lawsuit brought against the Manistee National Forest which has required them to consider increasing the number of acres set aside for quiet sports. This has set off a huge firestorm among hunting, snowmobiling, and ATV interests. These groups have strongly organized to oppose the proposals. From the Forest Service perspective, it has created a huge amount of paperwork and chewed up time which could not be spent doing other things.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I deplore the amount of money it has taken the Forest Service to prepare alternative solutions and all the accompanying documentation. However, I do agree with the basic idea that quiet recreation often gets the short end of the stick.

You may have seen media coverage of this issue if you live in Michigan. All the news reports I've seen have made it sound as if hunters and motorized vehicles will be banned from the whole forest. The media seems to have worked hard to make this as hot of an issue as possible.

In truth, only 70,000 acres, out of a million in the forest, will be affected. That's less than 1% of the land!

In addition to recreational uses, the Forest has included rare plants, wildlife management, and timber management in their SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement), but these are outside the scope of this blog post.

It's really hard to sift through the documents to the crux of the issue, but I believe I've got it right... I made a couple of phone calls, and have searched the web for info from others who have read all the paperwork. The Forest has prepared three alternatives:

  • A. Do nothing. This would leave all areas as they are- open to the same uses.
  • B. Combine all semiprimitive nonmotorized areas into a single management area and ban hunting in addition to the current ban on motorized vehicles. This is the FS preferred alternative because it creates the least amount of additional work (about 64,000 acres). See additional comments below.
  • C. Change all semiprimitive motorized areas to nonmotorized, thus increasing the nonmotorized areas by 17,000 acres. This would ban both hunting and motorized use.

The North Country Trail passes through all three of the existing semiprimitive nonmotorized areas. These are the Manistee River SPA, Bowman Lake SPA, and Condon Lakes West SPA. Therefore, with either B or C, there will be increased places where one can walk on the NCT without encountering hunters. If Alternative C is implemented, then the Loda Lake Motorized SPA would also become nonmotorized, creating a fourth "quiet" area along the NCT. Condon Lakes East would also become nonmotorized, and this is adjacent to the trail.

Opponents say that there is so much noise encroaching from adjacent properties that this whole idea is silly. And of course, there has been the huge outcry that the Forest is trying to ban "noisy" users from the whole Forest. It's just not true.

The court decision stated that "the [Forest] Service failed to identify the various recreation preferences of user groups. Specifically, just because the Forest Plan may allow a variety of "activities" (i.e., snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hunting, cross-country skiing, bird watching) does not mean that the Plan is adequate. Rather, the Service should focus on the "quality" of those recreational opportunities and the recreational preferences for the users." Finally, someone noticed that low-tech users do not receive a quality experience in shared areas!

This post has gotten long. There is a nice table comparing the alternatives at The Alternatives. This is a pdf which lists the alternatives, and has a chart near the end.

If you would like to see more of a quality experience for hikers, with little actual impact on hunters and motorized users of the Forest, please send a comment and endorse Alternative B or C. The deadline is Dec 23, 2011.

HOW TO COMMENT • U.S. Mail - Send written comments to Lee Evison, Forest Planner, Huron-Manistee National Forests, 1755 S. Mitchell Street, Cadillac, MI 49601 • Fax - 231-775-5551 • Electronic - (Comments sent via email should contain the subject line "Forest Plan SEIS"

This segment is on NCTA map MI-04, and MI-05

See Index to all the Manistee National Forest Documentation on the SEIS.

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