Betty PrichardLinks Section
Is there a conspiracy?
Ref: Proposed OHV (Off Highway Vehicles) trails in National Forest for: Jeeps, Trucks, Dunebuggies, and other ATV's
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
I was under the impression that the basic purpose of the Forest Service was to protect and preserve our National Forests for the benefit of all U.S. Citizens.
According to what I've been reading, there seems to be a conspiracy going on between our Forest Service and the Jeep clubs. Our Forest Service loaned Jeep Club members GPS (Ground Positioning Equipment) lobos, maps, etc. They gave them permission slips allowing them go into the Mark Twain National Forest to pick out and map 69 miles of trails which they wanted to ride in the Palmer Lakes area. Private property is intermingled with the Forest in this area. At the end of December 2003 ONLY SOME LANDOWNERS in the immediate Palmer area received a letter from the Forest Service (dated 12/22/03) in which they announced three OHV study areas. THE "MIDWEST JEEPTHING CLUB" POSTED THE FOLLOWING NOTICE TO ITS MEMBERS ON OCTOBER 20, 2003. "As you all know, we have been GPS mapping roads in the Palmer area of the MTNF for several months now. This part of the project is nearing completion. While we have discussed this at our meetings and asked for volunteers to help with mapping, we have kept many of the details as to why we are doing it to a minimum. There is a reason, a good one, but we had to keep things quiet until the Forest Service released the information to the public. Now that time has arrived. The FS is submitting a plan to make all of the Palmer/Palmer Lake area a designated OHV study area!"
There has been little, almost no, attempt by the Forest Service to make this public knowledge in our area. They posted ONE SMALL ARTICLE in our local newspaper. "MARK TWAIN NATIONAL FOREST TO STUDY IMPACTS OF OHV USE", which came out on CHRISTMAS EVE. How many people are concerned with buying or reading the newspaper at the busiest time of the year? I skipped buying this issue. The title doesn't peak the interest of readers by mentioning the opening of new trails. Further, the article should have been much more explicit and stated that this included Jeeps and trucks. Most people would assume 4-wheelers and motorcycles.
These are not trails for 4-wheelers and motorcycles as is being intimated. Jeeps from all over the country intend to take over this area. This can be plainly seen on the "Midwest Jeepthing" website. It would be much too dangerous for 4-wheelers and motorcycles to attempt to ride the same trails as the Jeeps. Jeeping is not a family sport, as they would like you to believe. It is an extremely dangerous and a predominantly male sport.
As I previously mentioned, only A FEW LANDOWNERS received notices. I received a copy on January 14th only after requesting one. A couple of us went door-to-door with a petition in the immediate Palmer Area. Out of the 149 signatures which we acquired, only a HANDFUL HAD BEEN SENT NOTICES by the Forest Service. We spoke with more than 100 Residents not in the Palmer area, NOT ONE HAD ANY KNOWLEDGE of the proposal. The FS says that they are open to public opinion until February 20th). How can the public voice an opinion if they are unaware of the issue...or is the definition of "PUBLIC" the Jeep Clubs?
WHY IS OUR FOREST SERVICE ASKING THE JEEP CLUBS T0 SPREAD THE WORD TO GET MORE SUPPORT? See the following notice: Notice to Jeep Club Members October 20. 2003: "Right now the FS is open to our suggestions to what we would like and are looking for our help to make this happen. We will need all available resources committed to this to make it happen. The FS has asked us to contact United Four Wheel Drive Associations for their support. This may go into litigation in an attempt to be blocked by the environmental groups. The FS is looking for the support of the four-wheel drive community to back them up. Their plan stated there is a need for an OHV area. WE ARE THE ONES IN NEED!"
The Forest Service sent the Jeep Clubs a letter inviting them to two open houses to the public at which this subject would be addressed. No land owners/residents were informed, let alone invited. These meetings took place in St. Louis and Rolla, which are 70 to 100 miles away from the nearest Study Area. Why were there no public meetings publicized and held in Washington County and other areas directly affected by the proposal?
DOES IT LOOK LIKE A CONSPIRACY YET?
Ron Raum, our current Mark Twain National Forest Supervisor, came here from Texas in September of 2003, where he was also supervisor. I understand that he "formed a partnership" with OHV groups there and did the same thing he is attempting to do here. _Mr. Raum says_ that he got the idea after ATV enthusiasts overwhelmed a series of public meetings this summer with demands for more trails. That's very interesting when the Jeep Club had already picked up mapping equipment from our FS on June 17. Obviously this decision had been made long before summer hit. It makes me wonder if MR. RAUM IS A MEMBER OF A JEEP CLUB. How does one get to be a Forest Supervisor? He obviously is not doing his job and should be fired!
The Jeep club stated to the Forest Service that "We are not satisfied on just running their system roads." They are now riding in illegal areas. The Forest Service contention is, in essence, that they can't stop them so they may as well legalize it in hopes that would cut down the illegal activity. You can't stop speeders either, so why not just eliminate the speed limits on our highways and thereby eliminate that illegal activity? We have only one Ranger to patrol this whole area. We need more law enforcement to curb the illegal activity. Not more trails!
I understand that the Forest Service, to avoid some legal requirements, and I believe, to camouflage their real intent, is calling these "STUDY AREAS". There are already 125 miles of trails in use at Chadwick. The area has been ravaged. Landowners/residents there have been threatened. Their small fire department can't keep up with medical emergency and brush fire calls, and is slowly going under financially. Apparently the Forest Service sets up these trails and then refuses assistance, financial or otherwise, to local agencies who must respond to the emergencies. There are many existing trails on the east side of "Hwy P" that has no private property intermingled. According to the FS proposed Palmer trail map, "Eastern Section", these trails are now open. The FS shows in their proposal that these trails would be closed in exchange for opening 69 miles on the western side of "Hwy P", thereby, making it appear to be a kind of trade-off. Katy Stuart, FS Ranger, was asked why they don't just leave those existing trails open and let them ride there instead of opening new trails where private property is intermingled. Her reply was "They are already closed. We are going to physically close them. WE HAVE A HUGE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE GOING ON OUT THERE RIGHT NOW!! Do you think additional Study Areas are needed, or is this just a CAMOUFLAGE?
We landowners/residents have a very personal stake in this, but all citizens who enjoy the forest by hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, horseback riding, camping, etc., will lose as well. Forget hunting. The wildlife's natural habitat will have been destroyed and the rest scared away by the noise. Can you imagine peacefully enjoying the forest, either for recreation or living in it, with a hundred jeeps roaring? The sound of their engines revving as they tear up the hillsides, etc. can be heard for miles.
In the Jeep Club's mapping, they have included trails that go within 20 to 25 feet of a church and cemetery, both in existence since at least 1840, and both still in use. These are trails that some Jeepers use now with no respect on a Sunday morning.
Would you like to attend a church service or funeral with the Jeeps doing their thing? Where are the rangers?
In short, landowners/residents in the Palmer area are concerned with, not only the Forest, but our own land being ravaged by the Jeeps. Our lives being disrupted and threatened, just like what is currently happening at Chadwick. We will probably lose our small Volunteer Fire Department or, at the very least, our homes may burn up while the Fire
Dept. is busy picking up Jeeper bodies out in the woods. <
To access project info: http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/marktwain/projects/project.htm.
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