Washington (Lincoln Press Release) – Following a wave of concern sparked by the National Forest Service's recently announced plan to drastically reduce access for ATVs in Ouachita National Forest and to close the Wolf Pen Gap area, U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln today pressed Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to heed the interests of the local communities. At a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lincoln, a member of the committee, asked Chief Tidwell to work with these communities to reach a resolution on the issue.
"This decision came as a shock to my constituents, particularly the decision to close the Wolf Pen Gap area for most of the year," Lincoln said. "This is an area largely dependent upon tourism from visitors who come to ride their ATVs. I am very concerned about this and hope that you and the Forest Service will work through these issues with the local community."
The U.S. Forest Service recently announced their completed Travel Management Plan for the Ouachita National Forest. According to its contents, 31 miles of loop trails will be closed to ATV use except on weekends and holidays between May 15 and September 15. The plan also proposed to limit traffic to 5,000 ATVs during that four-month season.
Earlier this year, Lincoln met one-on-one with Tidwell about this issue and sent him a follow up letter echoing her concerns. She has also met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to urge him to find a solution that will allow for reasonable year-round ATV access to the Wolf Pen Gap area.