News Release (01/18/2012)
Copper Center, Alaskaó Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica has signed aRecord of Decision (ROD) that approves a management plan for Off-Road Vehicles(ORVs) and trails in the Nabesna District of Wrangell-St. Elias National Parkand Preserve. The National Park Service(NPS) agreed to endeavor to complete the Environmental Impact Statement, ManagementPlan and ROD by December 31, 2011, pursuant to a settlement agreement from a2006 lawsuit.The lawsuit challenged NPSissuance of permits for recreational Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use on nine trailsin the Nabesna District of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The trails have provided access for sporthunting and subsistence activities since before the park was established. Summer use of ORVs on the trails has resultedin degraded trail conditions and impacts to wetlands, soils, andvegetation.
The ROD provides for thefollowing:
∑ Improvement ofnine trails in order to maintain one alignment and prevent resource impactsassociated with degraded trails. Improvements will consist of constructed re-routes and hardening ofexisting trails utilizing gravel or porous pavement panels such asGeoblock.
∑ Recreational ORVuse will be permitted on trails in the National Preserve that are in amaintainable condition. At this time, that includes the Trail Creek and LostCreek trails. After improvement,recreational ORV use will also be permitted on Reeve Field trail, Soda Laketrail, Caribou Creek trail, and Suslotatrail.
∑ ORV use byfederally qualified subsistence users will continue to be allowed on trails inthe national park and national preserve. The use will be subject to monitoring and management actions to ensurethat resource impacts associated with unimproved trails in the area do notexpand.
∑ The use of ORVsfor accessing private inholdings within the Nabesna District will be managedconsistent with ANILCA Section 1110(b), implementing regulations at Title 43CFR 36.10(e)(1), and the NPS Alaska Regionís Interim Userís Guide to Accessing Inholdings in National Park SystemUnits in Alaska.
∑ Construction of20 miles of new non-motorized trails.
The Record of Decision wassigned after careful consideration of management alternatives and environmentaleffects displayed in the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements(EIS). The decisions identified in theROD represent a combination of alternatives 4 and 5 analyzed in the Draft EISand best meet the objectives identified in the EIS. The ROD is responsive to public commentreceived on the EIS and presents a balanced approach. According to analysis presented in the EIS,trail improvement that eliminates trail braiding and associated impacts willresult in the following resource benefits:
∑ Recovery of 374acres of impacted soils, 375 acres of impacted wetlands, and 656 acres ofimpacted vegetation.
∑ Proposed trailimprovements would bridge, harden, or eliminate all of 22 ORV stream crossingsidentified in the EIS as non-functional.
The EIS estimates the cost ofall trail improvements at $4.3 million. In order to stretch trail improvement dollars, NPS will be looking fortrail improvement partners and will be considering the use of volunteers fortrail repair and maintenance. Tentativefunding for 2012 is positive and should enable NPS to make needed repairs onthe Soda Lake and Caribou Creek trails and get started on the Copper Laketrail.
The Record of Decision can beviewed or downloaded from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preservewebsite at http://www.nps.gov/wrst or atthe NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov.
Questions regarding the Record ofDecision may be directed to Bruce Rogers at 907-822-7276.