BLM moves forward with Johns Peak ORV plans

Opponents of a long-range plan for off-road vehicle use near Johns Peak expressed disappointment that the idea didn't die along with a major northwest forest plan.

"My impression was the whole thing was dead," said Commissioner Dave Gilmour.

He said he was surprised to learn the Bureau of Land Management's efforts to designate trails on the Timber Mountain-Johns Peak area will continue even though the Western Oregon Plan Revisions, known by its acronym, WOPR, recently was shut down.

Jim Whittington, spokesman for the BLM's Medford district, said the effort to more effectively manage the trail system on Johns Peak began in 1995, well before the WOPR, though some aspects of the forest plan have given direction to trail-management proposals.

Whittington said the WOPR process helped identify issues in the area such as habitat, fish-bearing streams, soil rehabilitation, invasive plants and types of recreation allowed.

Other types of recreation could include horseback riding and hiking, which would mean some trails could be off-limits to off-road vehicle use.

The Timber Mountain-Johns Peak area near Jacksonville has 376 miles of roads and trails with 186 miles on public land and 190 miles on private land. Under various alternatives the BLM is considering, the number of miles reserved for off-road vehicles could be reduced to between 31 and 140.

Opponents of the plan say it's almost impossible to mix off-road vehicles with other types of recreation. Some off-road vehicle supporters also have objected to the BLM's plan because they say it could sharply curtail the number of trails they can ride on.

Whittington said once the plan is fully adopted, which could take up to five years, the BLM could apply for grants that would help provide enforcement needed to properly manage the trail system.

He expected more trails ultimately would be off-limits to motorized vehicles under the plan because it must allow for other recreational purposes, or for habitat restoration or soil rehabilitation.

"It'll probably end up being more restrictive because of other uses," said Whittington.

Jack Duggan, who owns land near Timber Mountain, said he expected the BLM to forge ahead with its trail-management plan even though a draft environmental study was completed with the WOPR in mind.

"I'm not surprised the BLM did not change its direction on Timber Mountain," he said. "I'm disappointed our government will put forward a plan they know will be litigated. Can't they put together a better plan than that?"

He said it's ridiculous to think that loud off-road vehicles can coexist with other recreational activities on the mountain.

"It defies every study that's ever been done," he said. "Once you put machines on the ground, every other form of recreation, including hunting and fishing, are all gone."

Steven Croucher, president of the Motorcycle Riders Association, also isn't surprised the BLM is continuing its efforts to create a management plan for Timber Mountain.

The MRA owns 406 acres in the riding area and has agreements to use other land.

Croucher said his organization is supportive of the BLM process, though it has had concerns that limiting the number of acres might not provide enough access to off-road vehicle users.

Commissioner Gilmour said he was skeptical that the BLM could come up with any plan that would successfully segregate off-road vehicles and other activities such as horseback riding or hiking.

"That's a huge area to patrol and it has so many access points," he said. "Enforcement is still a significant issue there."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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