HOT SPRINGS (AGFC) – Maps that reveal newly designated motorized vehicle routes on the Ouachita National Forest will be available May 9. ONF Supervisor Norm Wagoner says the maps are part of the forest's Travel Management Project.
"On May 9, the maps will be posted on our forest website," Wagoner said. "That will be the official start to implementation of the new route designations."
Maps will be available at any ONF ranger district office. The online maps are configured to print sections that can be joined to create a full-size map.
The USDA Forest Service issued the Travel Management Rule in 2005, which called for each of America's 155 national forests to designate a travel system for motorized vehicles, including off-highway vehicles. The rule was established to limit harmful environmental impacts associated with unregulated OHV use on national forests.
The biggest change on the ONF is that most cross-country travel using OHVs has been eliminated.
"There are approximately 3,300 miles of roads and trails available for the public to use to travel throughout the forest," Wagoner said. "We've worked hard with the public and our partners to provide a good, sustainable system, and I believe we've made a great start."
Options for additional or different routes still exist. Each ranger district conducts a variety of environmental reviews as part of day-to-day business. According to Wagoner, the public will continue to have an important role to play in future route designations.
"I encourage people to continue to work with the district office where they enjoy riding to share suggestions for potential trails, or volunteer their group to help the forest develop and maintain new designated routes."
In addition to route designations, game-retrieval corridors and seasonal routes are included on the maps. Game-retrieval corridors allow hunters to use OHVs to retrieve legally downed white-tailed deer and bear up to half a mile on either side of some designated routes. About half the forest is within the half-mile game-retrieval corridors.
Routes that will be open during October, November and December, when the majority of hunting occurs in Arkansas and Oklahoma, are also identified on the maps.
Travel routes at the Wolf Pen Gap Trail Complex near Mena remain open. Managers are continuing to work with the public and partners to identify a sustainable trail system for the popular OHV area. Forest Service officials will make a decision on routes at Wolf Pen Gap in 2012.