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Facing opposition, Ochoco National Forest scales back plans for Lemon Gulch Trails Project

Ochoco National Forest

Miles of trails are about half of what was proposed earlier

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Ochoco National Forest said Thursday it has released the draft Environmental Assessment for the Lemon Gulch Trails Project. The proposal -- revised and reduced after criticism arose -- is to develop a 27-mile mountain bike trail system on the west side of the Lookout Mountain Ranger District, about 20 miles northeast of Prineville.

The Environmental Assessment analyzes and compares five action alternatives, ranging from 19-52 miles of trail and includes a “no action” alternative. The preferred alternative (alternative 6) involves the construction of 27.5 non-motorized miles of trail.

"It provides a much smaller footprint than the original proposal, based on key issues raised in earlier phases of the project, as well as individual and group meetings with permittees, community members and elected officials," the announcement said.

Alternative 6 also reduces trail density in some areas specifically to address wildlife and grazing concerns, while still maintaining a complete mix of trail opportunity, the agency said.

“After over a year of meeting with our Tribal partners from the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, Crook County community leaders, grazing permittees, stakeholders and interested parties, we are happy to be releasing the draft environmental assessment for public comment,” said Lookout Mountain District Ranger Slater Turner. “We have taken great care in incorporating a wide variety of comments and look forward to hearing feedback on these alternatives.”

A citizen group called "Don't Bend Prineville" had opposed the original 52-mile proposal, objecting to the trails density and three 40-vehicle parking areas in a "fragile, core area for deer and elk … at the expense of hikers, horseback riders, naturalists, hunters and cattle grazing."

The project was originally released to the public in a scoping document in March 2021 after being submitted as part of a larger forest-wide proposal by Ochoco Trails, a grassroots group of non-motorized trail users interested in expanding trail access on the forest.

The Forest Service sys it received feedback from the public and worked to address the issues raised by incorporating resource protection measures and developing several alternatives.  This Draft Environmental Assessment is the culmination of those conversations and feedback.

For more information on the project and to view and comment on the draft Environmental Assessment, visit the project web page: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58831.

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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