BLM sets open houses this week on travel management plan
BULLHEAD CITY — Desert recreationists will get their first look at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s proposed off-road travel network this week.
BLM will make maps of the proposed travel network and other alternatives available to the public during three open houses held today, Wednesday and Thursday.
Bullhead City residents are invited to attend from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Suddenlink Community Center, 2380 Suddenlink Way. Additional meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Hualapai Elementary School, 350 Eastern St., Kingman, and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Owens School, 14109 Chicken Springs Road, Wikieup.
BLM staff will be available to answer questions and receive comments on the project. More information about the plan is available — and comments also can be submitted — online at https://go.usa.gov/xUsPq. The 30-day public comment period ends Sept. 18.
“I’ll be attending the meeting, along with several, if not many of our members,” said Doug Ohm, Bullhead 4-Wheelers president. “The club is very invested in the project, we’ve GPS mapped thousands of miles of trails.”
The small club of off-road Jeep enthusiasts worked with the BLM for more than a decade to map area travel routes, Ohm said.
“Local OHV clubs have been instrumental in helping the BLM to not only identify routes, but identify how much and what use is occurring on a given route,” said Matt Driscoll, BLM Kingman Office outdoor recreation planner.
BLM Kingman Field Office manages nearly 2.5 million acres of public land in northwestern Arizona, comprised of nine travel management areas made up of a checkerboard of land ownership including BLM, U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, state, county, local and private lands covering parts of Mohave, Yavapai, and La Paz counties.
“Many OHV users in the area know that there have not been readily available maps for the public to use for several years and that is what this process is about,” Driscoll said. “Ultimately managing the routes across public lands so the public can have adequate and sustainable access into the future.”
Creation of the travel management plan is a four-step process, Driscoll said.
BLM inventoried routes within the planning area in 2004, using existing maps, available aerial photography and satellite images. BLM field crews and contractors traveled by four-wheel drive, motorcycles, horseback, mountain bikes or by foot to identify roads, primitive roads and trails to collect route inventory data.
“Once BLM has what is believed to be a complete inventory — we need help from the general public with this, which is why we hosted a public meeting in October 2017 — we begin to evaluate all the routes within the Kingman Field Office against the routes’ uses,” Driscoll said.
Those evaluations are then rolled up into the TMP, or planning process, that identifies what BLM proposes to do with a given route.
“This TMP is then available for public review, which is what our office is doing now, to ensure that we have captured the public uses of the public lands that BLM manages for public use and enjoyment,” Driscoll said.
Uses considered include hunting, rock-crawling/technical OHV driving, rockhounding/mineral collection, camping, touring, sight-seeing, photography, private property access, purpose, adjacent resource concerns, and pertinent management plan goals and objectives, Driscoll said.
The agency also considers areas of critical environmental concern, special recreation management areas, campgrounds and trailheads, wilderness areas, burro herd management areas, utility corridors, communications sites, mines, soil data, endangered species habitat, water points, grazing and pasture allotments and more.
Individual route evaluations included in the plan will be analyzed in an environmental assessment and every route on BLM-managed lands receives an open, limited or closed designation. Open routes are available for use by the public; limited routes allow travel under certain circumstances — for example, they may have seasonal restrictions, be open only for administrative access, have vehicle width restrictions or designated for non-motorized use. Routes also may be designated as closed to public use.
Though this series of meetings is to review data gathered on the travel routes, off-road enthusiasts are concerned that at the end of the process, BLM will close trails currently used, Ohm said.
“The goal is to have signed trails and off-highway vehicles will only be allowed to travel on signed trails,” Ohm said. “There’s big areas where we’re not allowed now and by shutting off certain tracks, we won’t have access to other tracks deeper in the desert. We’re very concerned about how many miles of trails we’ll have open.”
The public is encouraged to use this scoping period to identify issues that influence the environmental analysis and provide comments prior to the agency issuing decisions, officials said.
“The purpose of the meetings is to get input and feedback on proposed alternative route networks from the info collected in October, the environmental assessment and the data that was reviewed by staff,” said Valerie Gohlke, BLM Colorado River District spokeswoman.