People interested in understanding proposed changes that would affect where motorized vehicles can travel in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest have an opportunity to learn directly from U.S. Forest Service staff this Friday (June 24).
The Forest Service open house is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Okanogan County Public Utility District headquarters in Okanogan.
The biggest change would limit vehicle use to officially designated roads, replacing the current policy that allows motor-vehicle access throughout the forest. The other major change affects dispersed campgrounds – while the campgrounds would still be open to camping, people would not be able to drive all the way to some campgrounds near rivers and lakes.
One other significant change would create six loops – a total of 350 miles – for wheeled all-terrain vehicles in the forest. Two of the loops are in the Methow Valley Ranger District. These are the same routes that the Forest Service has opened and then closed again after legal challenges successfully claimed the agency first had to review all types of motorized travel in the forest.
People have until July 8 to provide feedback to the Forest Service. After the comment period closes, the project lead and the forest supervisor will review the comments to determine if any changes to their environmental assessment are necessary. Those who comment within this time frame will also have standing for any follow-up appeals.
For more information – and to see the environmental assessment, which includes four proposed alternatives – go to the Travel Management Project website by searching for “Okanogan-Wenatchee travel management, project 46467,” or call Jennifer Zbyszewski, the project lead, at 996-4021. There is also a link on the website to submit comments.