Off-highway vehicle use of roads and trails on an area commonly known as Johns Peak would be reduced 63 to 92 percent in a draft management plan released late Friday afternoon.

Off-highway vehicle use of roads and trails on an area commonly known as Johns Peak would be reduced 63 to 92 percent in a draft management plan released late Friday afternoon.

The plan for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Timber Mountain Recreation Management Area, which also includes an environmental impact statement, includes four action alternatives that would cut the 376 miles of roads and trails now being used on the 15,114 acres to between 31 and 140 miles. A fifth alternative calls for no management.

The action alternatives in the draft plan would also decommission some trails to restore watershed conditions, prevent unintended trespass on adjacent private lands and protect resources.

The area is immediately west of Jacksonville and south of the Interstate 5 corridor. The area has been used by OHV enthusiasts for at least 40 years but use has increased dramatically in recent years, said John Gerritsma, Ashland field manager for the agency's Medford District.

A 45-day comment period on the draft plan begins Monday. An open house will be held early in March followed by a public forum in April to consider the draft plan.

"One of the key issues that people need to understand is that, of the existing miles of roads and trails out there now being used, only about half is on BLM land," said Gerritsma.

"The rest of them are on industrial forestlands that are mostly private," he added, noting that some private land users allow use but there is no explicit permission.

"In order for us to have a trail system that utilizes private land we have to work with various landowners to get permission," he said.

A representative from the Motorcycle Riders Association could not immediately be reached for comment late Friday.

If agreements are reached between the agency and willing private landowners, the agency could then control and manage the area to protect the environment while improving safety, he said.

"We didn't consider any alternative to increase trails," he said. "Our analysis shows there is already too much out there in terms of safety issues and environmental and social impact."

The district's 1995 resources management plan designated the area as an emphasis area for OHV use, but required the agency to begin a planning process to determine which roads and trails would remain open.

The BLM lands are not in a solid block but in a checkerboard pattern and are adjacent to private parcels, making management a challenge, Gerritsma said. The agency began meeting with those interested in OHV use in the area in 2003, he said.

The BLM hopes to have a final decision on the draft plan by September, he said, although noting any unaddressed issues raised during the comment period could extend that deadline.

The 2008 district management plan requires the final OHV routes to be designated with five years.

The goal of the plan, Gerritsma stressed, is to "provide a quality OHV recreation experience while protecting resources and improving visitor safety."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.