April 18, 2010
The U.S. Forest Service, Nebraska National Forest, announced their decision concerning the Travel Management Plan for the Bessey Ranger District near Halsey on April 13th. While we expected a considerable amount of trails to be closed, the news is worse than we hoped. 99.9% of all land at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey will be closed to recreational ATV, dirtbike and UTV riders. 94% of all trails will be closed to ATV, dirtbike and UTV riders. The decision clearly helps to discourage recreational ATV, dirtbike and UTV trail recreation at the Bessey Ranger District near Halsey. The ‘official’ press release from the Forest Supervisors office in Chadron is at the end of this article.
As endorsed by Nebraska National Forest Supervisor Jane Darnell, a modified version of Alternative 2 was announced. The Modified Alternative 2 offers only 19 miles of recreational ATV and dirtbike trails. From my calculations, only about two or three miles of trails will be open to UTV users.
NOHVA supported the original proposed alternative 2 that offered 27 miles of trails for ATV, dirtbike and UTV riders.
The announcement of the Modified Alternative 2 is a big surprise to our organization. We expected the Forest Service to play fair. Instead they have treated us unfairly and pulled this surprise Modified Alternative 2. The U.S. Forest Service has dealt a major blow to ATV and dirtbike recreation in Nebraska. I think that they will find that this decision will greatly increased their difficulty of managing recreational ATV, dirtbike and UTV enthusiasts.
Under the Modified Alternative 2, only 19 miles of ATV and dirtbike trails will remain open, down from 300 miles. Of the open riding areas, only 18 acres will remain open, down from 90,000. Compared to the original Alternative 2 that NOHVA supported, UTV owners gained a few miles of trails and ATV and dirtbike riders lost about 8 miles for a total of 280 miles of trails closed. The miles of 4x4 trails for use by licensed vehicles have increased dramatically under the modified alternative 2.
ATV and dirtbike riders should be prepared for vigorous enforcement of the new Travel Management rules. Last year, the staff at Bessey issued numerous tickets with stiff fines to ATV and dirtbike riders for relatively minor infractions. With the new Travel Management Plan in effect, ATV and dirtbike riders should be extremely careful and be on their BEST behavior. It’s well known that long time U. S. Forest Service staff members and local law enforcement can be cantankerous toward ATV, dirtbike and UTV enthusiasts. With the new Travel Management Plan in effect, riders should expect stepped up intimidation of ATV and dirtbike riders from officials.
As of this writing, our organization is preparing a response to the decision of the new Travel Management Plan. If you would like to become involved in our response, please contact me as soon as possible.
There is some good news. According to the new District Ranger Terry Baker, the proposal to prohibit ATV and dirtbike riders from riding to and from their camp site and trails from the main camp ground and the Whitetail Campground has been put on hold for now. The main camp ground is officially named the Bessey Recreation Complex and is located near state highway 2. The Whitetail Campground is the facility located next to the Dismal River along the south boundary of the Forest.
The Forest Service intends to step up efforts to inform ATV and dirtbike riding campers of the camp ground rules, and we expect the rules to be very strictly enforced. If there is not a very significant response from the ATV and dirtbike riders who use the camp ground this year, then the campground will be closed to all ATV and dirtbike riders.
Of the trails at the
Bessey Ranger District near Halsey, the remaining open trails are:
The Modified Alternative 2 that is now in effect will dramatically impact ATV, dirtbike and UTV recreation at Bessey. The decision by the Forest Service to significantly reduce miles of ATV trails will degrade the user experience. Placing more people on an already over crowded, deteriorating and poorly managed trail system will further compound problems. I know the decision will depress the willingness of our volunteers to help with trails. Even though a proposed EDAWS trail plan was unveiled in 2009 that would add more miles of ATV, dirtbike and UTV trails, the implementation of the plan, in this authors view, is remote at best.
I have been involved with trail planning at the Nebraska National Forest since 1988. With the implementation of the modified Travel Management Plan, I can think of no other time that has looked bleaker for recreational ATV and dirtbike riders at Bessey. During that time, I have been a part of two other ATV and dirtbike trail development plans presented by the Nebraska National Forest. None of them have ever been implemented.
Furthermore, it is logical to assume that these factors will further prohibit any additional trail planning and development:
U.S. Forest Service Press Release:
Forest Supervisor Jane Darnell announced the Record of Decision to
implement a Travel Management Plan for the Nebraska National Forests and
Grasslands today. The plan changes how users access and recreate on the
Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands.