(Oct. 15, 2009) - Conservation groups dedicated to active and sustainable management of the Upper Tellico OHV Area expressed deep disappointment with the U.S. Forest Service decision to permanently close the Tellico trails. The decision, which follows an earlier "temporary" closure, was announced in documents published by the USFS yesterday morning.
Gary Parsons, President of the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, reacted by saying, "The Forest Service is simply wrong in this decision. This public agency has ignored an independent study by Caliber Engineering and the recommendations of its own Trails Unlimited Team, which demonstrated effective management is attainable and offered specific suggestions to achieve that goal."
The agency announcement by Forest Supervisor Marisue Hilliard again parroted the water quality issues long favored by preservationist special interests as the excuse for closure. Jay Bird, Chairman of the Rescue Tellico Committee, noted, "The Tellico River is in excellent shape and complies with all legal requirements. Only through blatant modification of proper methodology, such as measuring turbidity levels during peak runoff, can the Forest Service claim there is legal basis to take any action, let alone closure."
"Sadly, we are not surprised. It now appears the Forest Service knew it would close the Area years ago, and undertook the intervening 'public process' to justify a decision already made," said Greg Mumm, Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition. "We are sorely disappointed that the Forest Service has determined it cannot effectively manage the Upper Tellico OHV Area that users have supported with millions of dollars in fees and thousands of hours of volunteer labor. With our recreational partners, we will evaluate all options that may change that determination."
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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742. www.sharetrails.org
United Four Wheel Drive Associations is an international organization comprised of four wheel drive enthusiasts, clubs, associations, and businesses dedicated to providing community services around the world, education in responsible land use and safe vehicle operation, and protection of our natural resources through conservation practices. 1-800-448-3932. www.ufwda.org
Southern Four Wheel Drive Association (SFWDA) was founded in 1987 to promote responsible land use and to keep public lands accessible for motorized recreation. For more information on the activities and accomplishments of Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, please visit www.sfwda.org or contact us at 1483 N. Mt. Juliet Road, PMB # 222, Mt. Juliet, TN 37122