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Judge Rejects Proposed Off-Road Vehicle Trails At Ochoco National Forest

<p>In the Ochoco National Forest, North Point overlooks Bridge Creek Wilderness at sunrise.&nbsp;</p>

Courtesy U.S. Forest Service


In the Ochoco National Forest, North Point overlooks Bridge Creek Wilderness at sunrise. 

This week a federal judge rejected plans to allow more off-road vehicle trails in the Ochoco National Forest in Eastern Oregon.

The Forest Service proposed 137 miles of designated off-road trails for summer use. But conservation groups argued they would hurt wildlife and ruin popular hunting grounds. The Oregon Hunters Association was among the plaintiffs.

Bill Littlefield is the outgoing president of the Bend chapter of the Hunters Association and an off-road vehicle owner opposed to the trail system.

"I think the Forest Service can come back with a good plan but they just need a different plan than they proposed," Littlefield said. "Where they tried to put it and the amount of ground that it covered and the amount of habitat that it impacted, was too large and sensitive of habitat.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan agreed. She ruled the Forest Service failed to explain how the proposed trail system would affect summer habitat for elk and gray wolf recovery. She also said the agency needed to address road density in a forest that already has hundreds of short OHV routes and illegal trails created by riders.

Sullivan’s preliminary ruling heads to a court in Portland for a final judgment.

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