Reiter Foothills Action Alert
1/13/11 Reiter SEPA Action Alert
Please take a minute to send an email TODAY to save Washington State’s Reiter Forest from off-road vehicle (ORV) damage.
The comment period for this proposal will run from December 20, 2010 to January 31, 2011. Comments should be submitted to the SEPA Center at email@example.com or PO Box 47015, Olympia, Washington 98504-7015 for distribution to the responsible official.
Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) is taking public comments until January 31, 2011 on its construction plan for the “motorized trail system” for ORVs at Reiter Forest. DNR issued a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), which means DNR does not intend to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for constructing the ORV sites and trails. DNR needs to hear from many individual non-motorized recreationists and conservationists.
Last year we supported DNR’s overall recreation plan for Reiter because it significantly reduced the acreage open to ORVs, and it helped protect adjacent wildlands from ORV trespass – the new Wild Sky Wilderness, Wallace Falls State Park, and Forks of the Sky State Park are all adjacent to Reiter Forest, and trespass and vandalism do occur. We like the designation of non-motorized areas within Reiter Forest, to protect the land and wildlife and provide year-round, lower-elevation non-motorized recreation (the non-motorized trail system is still being designed). These and other forms of mitigation should help reduce the impacts of future ORV use at Reiter.
However, we cannot support DNR’s ORV construction plan as currently written, because it omits too many important points. Although we support DNR’s efforts to protect public resources, we urge DNR to conduct a full EIS, and provide the missing substance especially on enforcement and restoration.
The construction plan calls for 25.8 miles of new trail for motorcycles, quad ATVs and 4x4s, several 4x4 challenge areas and motorcycle trial riding areas, three temporary parking areas, and a new trailhead and parking lot. The SEPA documents also refer to future additions to the ORV area such as a campground, for which no details are given.
DNR’s Reiter Forest ORV construction plan documents can be viewed at:
See below for talking points, and THANKS for helping us to protect Reiter Forest!
Alpine Lakes Protection Society
Friends of Wild Sky
North Cascades Conservation Council
Pilchuck Audubon Society
Washington Trails Association
Washington Wilderness Coalition
Send your email comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject line: Reiter Foothills Forest Motorized Trail System, Phases 1 and 2 -- File 10-122002
The comment deadline is 4:30 PM on Monday, January 31, 2011.
We do not oppose construction of ORV facilities and routes in Reiter’s motorized area under appropriate conditions. We do oppose substantive errors and omissions in the SEPA approval process.
The use of a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) is inappropriate because the negative impacts of ORV use at Reiter are too significant. The significance of those ORV impacts is the reason DNR has closed Reiter to motorized use for the past 15 months. DNR should issue a Determination of Significance (DS) and prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the ORV trail system construction at Reiter.
The EIS should analyze site-specific ORV impacts, past practices, and the restoration, mitigation, usage limits, enforcement and funding that are needed in the future. In particular:
• DNR must provide adequate enforcement resources, and a detailed enforcement plan, before proceeding with construction of this ORV trail system.
• DNR must provide adequate analysis of impacts of ORV use on aquifer and water quality, and on wildlife habitat.
• DNR must provide adequate analysis of future operations and maintenance, parking, and future phases of construction.
• DNR must provide a restoration plan to address past environmental damage caused by ORVs.
The impacts of ORV use on State forest lands have never been carefully analyzed under SEPA.
The prior EIS documents referenced in the SEPA checklist are about logging, not ORV use. DNR should prepare a programmatic EIS for managing ORV use on DNR lands statewide.
DNR’s enforcement plan for Reiter needs to be spelled out in detail and referenced in the SEPA documents, including who will be on site, when it will be patrolled, and the type of infractions that will be cited. Everyone – including DNR and the ORV community – agrees that adequate enforcement is key to making the Reiter plan work. Without enforcement, off-route ORV use will erode soil from the forest floor, damage trees and other vegetation, and bleed sediment into streams, degrading fish habitat. DNR’s 2010 Reiter recreation plan said there would be an enforcement strategy “prior to” development of ORV sites and trails, but DNR’s new site-specific SEPA documents fail to deliver on that promise. The SEPA checklist barely mentions enforcement, and by saying so little, it fails to say that future enforcement will be any different than the old approach that did not work. In other words, there is nothing to prevent recurrence of the inadequate management and severely adverse ORV impacts that led to the November 2009 closure of Reiter to ORV use. Enforcement is a key form of mitigation. It is ONLY by having an adequate enforcement plan (and designated resources) as mitigation that the significant negative impacts of future ORV use can be reduced to an acceptable level. Uncertainty of funding is not an excuse for having no plan, since funding for enforcement is just as important as funding for construction, restoration or any other form of physical mitigation.
Postponement of detailed environmental review constitutes improper phasing or “piecemealing” under SEPA. The SEPA checklist states that after Phase 2 is completed, there may be additional construction (in effect, an undefined “Phase 3”) including a campground, 3.5 more miles of trail, and an additional 4x4 challenge area. That planned future construction should be disclosed in detail and analyzed now.
We support DNR’s 2010 plan to restore and repair the damage caused by past ORV use, both inside and outside the motorized area, and we commend the volunteers who have worked with DNR on restoration in the past year. However, the SEPA checklist says only that restoration will be undertaken adjacent to the new ORV routes. DNR should provide a detailed restoration plan for all sites significantly damaged from past ORV use, including a detailed map of where they are, regardless of whether they are adjacent to the new ORV routes. DNR’s restoration plan should include monitoring of restored sites.
DNR should provide more detailed analysis of ORV impacts on plants and animals, including owls, goshawks, peregrine falcons, salmon and steelhead, and a map of which streams are fish-bearing, showing locations of planned stream crossings (including locations of bridges and culverts). DNR’s analysis should include a review of scientific literature on the impacts of ORVs upon wildlife, vegetation, soil and water. The SEPA checklist does not adequately address impacts from the construction of ORV trails in “Next Best” timber stands designated in the DNR’s Habitat Conservation Plan as Nesting, Roosting, and Foraging (NRF) with the explicit objective to provide future habitat conservation for endangered species such as spotted owls.
DNR proposes some ORV construction in the aquifer recharge zone that supplies water to the Town of Index. The impacts on the aquifer need to be analyzed in more detail.
DNR needs to analyze stormwater flow control and water quality treatment for parking areas, trails and challenge areas. DNR needs to follow County Code provisions for determining the required number of parking spaces. To improve safety, DNR should prohibit consumption of alcoholic beverages while operating ORVs at Reiter, and should designate Reiter forest a No Shooting Area under the County Code.
DNR needs to provide a detailed Operations and Maintenance plan that provides for specific maintenance actions as trails or facilities deteriorate, routine monitoring of the entire length of the designated ORV route system, routine monitoring of closed routes and areas, and periodic preparation of publicly available reports noting trail conditions and any violations of rules, including off-route travel. DNR should follow the requirements for ORV area construction and operation set forth in Snohomish County Code section 30.28.086, such as an ORV Operations Plan that includes best management practices, maintenance, environmental monitoring, and security measures.