BLM enacting temporary restrictions on Table Rocks

Bureau of Land Management plans to enact temporary rules restricting a host of recreational activities at the Table Rocks' publicly-owned portions for up to two years, starting in August.

BLM officials say the rules won't be much of a change.

Activities including the use of motorized and non-motorized vehicles, domestic animals like dogs and horses, the use of firearms and paintball guns, and metal detector usage were prohibited when the land was owned by the nonprofit Nature Conservancy. The BLM acquired the 850 acres of land in November 2012, and official rules protecting the spot full-time are not yet in place. During the interim, BLM officials said there has to be a safeguard.

"We have to formalize this," said Jon Raby, BLM field manager at the Medford District Office. "Unless we say that and have that as a restriction, there's the potential for that to occur."

Raby notified Jackson County's Board of Commissioners of the BLM's intentions at a Tuesday public work session. The BLM plans to enforce the restrictions for up to two years, or until supplemental rules can be implemented to enforce them full-time.

"This is really not a takeaway," Jackson County Roads & Parks Director John Vial said, adding some of the restrictions could be reversed.

A draft letter on the restrictions says the lands have "sensitive cultural, historical, botanical and wildlife habitat resources," necessitating the mandate. The remains of the Camp White WWII training center, eligible for inclusion into the National Historic Register, is within the boundary. Vernal pool habitats with endangered species are too, as are nearby open grasslands where a large elk herd is often visible.

"Hunting is discouraged by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife due to the high recreational use on the hiking trails, but is not currently restricted on any of the public lands in the management area," the draft letter reads.

The acquisition of the lands was part of the Obama Administration's America's Great Outdoors program, an initiative intended to reconnect the public with the outdoors. The Upper and Lower Table Rocks were one of 101 projects selected nationwide for the program, and one of two in Oregon. BLM officials have requested the Board of Commissioners sign a letter of support for the next phase, in which BLM would acquire another 1,990 acres.

— Ryan Pfeil

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