Two proposals about how to manage more than 300,000 acres of land in the Ochoco National Forest are making the rounds these days, and one, an off-highway vehicle plan being developed by the U.S. Forest Service, is now available for public comment.

Those who wish to have their say may do so by emailing comments to comments-pacificnorthwest-ochoco@fs.fed.us by April 4.

The plan, which would create the 135-mile Ochoco Summit Trail System, has been in the works since 2009, according to the forest’s website. It aims to provide off-highway vehicle users an established place to play in the forest, a move that became necessary when the Forest Service limited travel outside of established areas.

The other proposal, by Oregon Wild, would cover roughly the same area and include at least 29,000 acres of designated wilderness, something this part of Oregon has plenty of.

As is often the case where OHVs are concerned, the Forest Service plan has its critics. Yet it has much to recommend it.

OHVs, their critics notwithstanding, are not barred from national forests, which provide recreational opportunities to diverse groups, including dog sledders, hikers, skiers, snowmobilers and mountain bikers. This plan aims to provide OHV users a designated area in which to recreate. There are a couple of advantages in that.

The plan foresees trails being developed largely on existing trails and roads in the area, with relatively little new land being converted for OHV use. The system itself, 135 miles, is smaller than it was when first proposed, and the Forest Service has worked to lessen any impact it might have on neighbors. It’s designed to provide summer recreation activities that fit nicely with other riding opportunities in the region.

And, by giving OHV aficionados a designated place to ride in the Ochocos, the plan is expected to reduce off-trail riding and damage in other parts of the forest.

The Ochoco National Forest is, by definition, a multi-use place, where trees grow and where trees are cut. It should have space not only for those who relish peace and quiet, but for those whose idea of a fun afternoon involves a group of buddies with OHVs. This plan provides that.

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