Saying he was alarmed by the recently adopted travel management plan for the Ouachita National Forest, Oklahoma district, Sen. Kenneth Corn has filed a resolution requesting Congress to intervene and delay implementation of the new plan for the district until public input has been considered.
The new travel management plan would limit ATV use to 40 miles of designated trails in the Ouachita National Forest in LeFlore County. Corn said the policy is too restrictive and would present problems for hunters and the disabled.
“The process needs to be opened to the public and accept the input of the taxpayers who provide the funding that allows the forest to be maintained,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “The citizens who use the forest and the communities who depend on the National Forest for their tourism industry shouldn’t be ignored. The current proposal is too restrictive and could have a negative impact on hunting and recreation in the Ouachita Forest.”
Critics of the policy have noted that the Forest Service did not sufficiently utilize public input in the drafting of the new travel management plan. Corn said the Forest Service only allowed public input into the proposed regulations for a 60-day period, on the agency’s website. Forest Service officials then held public meetings not to encourage the public’s input, but to inform citizens of what had already been adopted.
“Many people in my district don’t have access to the internet, and those who do are not likely regular visitors to the Forest Service’s website,” Corn said. “The travel management plan should be suited to the needs of the people. The licensed hunters, disabled and veterans who hunt in the Ouachita National Forest should be given an opportunity to voice their opinion.”
Corn noted the restrictions could prevent hunters who use an ATV from taking their vehicle off designated trails to retrieve a kill. Additionally, older or disabled hunters might be forced to walk long distances to their hunting location, Corn said.
Rep. Neil Brannon, co-author of the resolution, said the proposed regulations are currently scheduled to take effect in September 2008.
“Sen. Corn and I are encouraging our Congressional delegation to step forward and help ensure the public has a voice in this matter,” said Brannon, D-Arkoma.