A win but not a solution for the Ochoco Mountains
The Bend Source recently published this letter to the editor by Jamie, our Ochoco Mountains Coordinator:
"As the Source recently reported, quiet recreationists across the state rejoiced at the news that a plan proposing 130+ miles of additional off-road vehicle trails in the Ochocos was struck down by the courts. The proposal would have been bad news for wildlife like deer and elk as well as hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers.
But stopping another bad plan isn't the same as creating a good one that's built to last. As central Oregon's population continues to grow, what will stop the Ochocos from becoming overrun like the Deschutes National Forest? Don't get me wrong - I love the Deschutes. A lot. As far as backyard playgrounds go, it doesn't get much better. But the Deschutes is being loved to death. I don't think anyone anticipated how fast our communities would grow, and as a result there was never a proactive, intentional plan for recreation on the Deschutes that balanced wildlife and other challenges. Today, many of us find ourselves regretting the fact that that planning never happened.
At this point, the Ochocos still offer opportunities for solitude. You can plan a backcountry trip on a whim - no permits needed. You can take your daughter on her first elk hunt and still have a fair chance of finding one. You can snuggle into your sleeping bag at night and hear nothing but the wind, coyotes, and maybe an owl (if you're lucky). But the secret's out, and more people are discovering the region.
So what does this court win mean for the future of the Ochocos? It's a big win, but it's temporary. Striking down every bad idea from now til infinity is futile, not to mention a recipe for unnecessary conflict. What we need is a comprehensive plan for the Ochocos that balances recreation, restoration, and conservation. We need to do what it takes now, so we don't have regrets later. We need Congress (that's you Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, and Greg Walden) to step up and make sure the Ochocos are sustainably cared for long-term.
These days our natural treasures need more friends. Let's celebrate the good news for the Ochocos and roll up our sleeves to get to work on support long term solutions."