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Planned Expansion of Buffalo Headwaters Trails Faces Forest Service Logging Plans

The Ozark Off-Road Cyclists (OORC) have been champions of the Buffalo Headwaters Mountain Bike Trail System since long before most people, including the International Mountain Bicycling Association, knew it existed. The trail is now a designated IMBA Epic Trail and draws riders from across the country to enjoy the remote beauty of the Upper Buffalo River Area. The trails have hosted one of the largest mountain bike events in the state for over a decade, The Buffalo Headwaters Challenge, where, in the middle of winter, hundreds of mountain bikers gather for three days of rides, camping (in often freezing conditions), and camaraderie. It’s always a good time punctuated by a grilled cheese sandwich and a refreshing beverage prepared and served by OORC volunteers.

While the trails are spectacular, there has been a plan to expand the trail system. A system that could help to improve the economy of the local community which straddles the Madison/Newton County line near Red Star, AR.

The US Forest Service has a different plan for the area that includes logging the area. The good news is there is still time to be heard. Below is the message from the Ozark Off-Road Cyclists about the project, the proposed phase 2 from OORC, and how you can speak up.

From the Ozark Off-Road Cyclist Board of Directors:

The OORC has had a Phase II trail plan that was submitted with the Phase I build in 2014 and has been part of the discussions with the Forest Service (FS) since early 2018.  We have worked diligently with the FS to correct portions and make exceptions to our original plan and believed we had a consensus to keep the trail on or near the ridgeline in order to provide a 10-12 mile contour bench trail. This would also create an opportunity for a Hwy 16 Trailhead and connection through Buffalo Creek Trailhead to Knuckles Creek Trailhead.  They have virtually done away with this to allow logging to occur in this Dispersed Recreation Area.

Phase II Planned expansion
Phase II Planned expansion
Forest Service Change and decrease of 13 miles of entire 24 miles planned
Forest Service Change and decrease of 13 miles of the entire 24 miles planned

 

Currently the Ozark National Forest (ONF), part of the United States Forest Service, is requesting public comments on the Roberts Gap Environmental Assessment. If you have ever utilized this area and/or have concerns regarding management of this recreation area, then we strongly urge you to promptly provide comments to the ONF regarding this project. Comments must be received by September 5, 2020 and may be submitted by email to: comments-southern-ozark-stfrancis-bayou@usda.gov

We have set up a document that would benefit from a short personalization and send to the FS collection email. All electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rft), or Word (.doc, .docx). You can download the document here: Individual_Response_update

Again the comments must be received by September 5, 2020 and may be submitted by email to:

comments-southern-ozark-stfrancis-bayou@usda.gov

This is an urgent situation. The OORC plans for Phase II of the Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trail System are being derailed in the Preferred Alternative #3 for this project. For this reason we are requesting that you actively engage with the Forest Service and submit your comments in a timely fashion. Plans and activities to expand the trail system are being given backseat status to plans to harvest timber, which will significantly degrade the recreational environment in the UBDRA. The thousands of hours of work that we have put forth in planning, designing, funding building, promoting, improving and maintaining these trails are being degraded. Exceptional recreational opportunities are being lost. For these reasons please take the time to review the linked materials. We are providing sample Comment letters for individuals and groups. Please add in any pertinent information you have about yourself or your organizations background, interest and involvement in this area. We have included our Comment concerns in the sample letters. Feel free to add in additional concerns or to remove OORC concerns that you do not support.

At any rate, your involvement is essential to getting better management plans for this area. The Forest Service has legal requirements to consider your comments and obligations to support public concerns. Be active. Be proactive. Let’s make this better!

Here are links to relevant documents detailing this project as well as supporting materials.

Roberts Gap project page with links to supporting materials

https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53597

Roberts Gap Environmental Assessment (EA) detailing the Proposed Action and Alternatives considered

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/108859_FSPLT3_5331371.pdf

Roberts Gap Proposed Action Map

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/108859_FSPLT3_5331375.pdf

Roberts Gap Preferred Alternative 3 Map

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/108859_FSPLT3_5331374.pdf

2005 ONF Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) guiding document for all ONF actions, plans and guidelines

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm8_042809.pdf

LRMP Forest Map showing the Upper Buffalo Dispersed Recreation Area UBDRA

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd629667.pdf

In the past, your interest and support have enabled us to protect the area landscape and watershed along with amazing recreational opportunities. Now, we need your activism! If you enjoy the Upper Buffalo Headwaters Trail System as much as we do, PLEASE take a few minutes to respond to the Forest Service/ONF and help us PRESERVE this majestic treasure for future trail development.

The OORC Board.

Chuck Maxwell, David VanSandt, HB Fink, Carmen Burden, Rob Reno, Carter Branstetter, Morgan House, Josh Carrol, Josh Vail, Josh Coones, Blake Slater

Please take a moment to be heard.

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