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Fighting winter erosion

Local wildlife managers are moving forward with a proposal to add about 10,600 acres of public and private lands near Eagle Point to a seasonal road-closure program aimed at curbing winter road erosion and improving big-game habitat.

A regional advisory council on Monday also requested that an additional &

36;60,000 go to the Jackson Access and Cooperative Travel Management Area to improve roads and wildlife habitat in the proposed new areas.

The so-called Green Top area between Obenchain and Worthington roads not only is a good addition to JACTMA's winter driving ban, it also has deeply rutted forest roads that need fixing, says Vince Oredson, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who oversees JACTMA.

If approved, the Green Top area would be added to the JACTMA closures beginning in October 2007.

In the interim, the federal Bureau of Land Management plans to clean up some meadows within the Green Top area already gated and closed to traffic.

— Linda Hale, a BLM wildlife biologist, says the agency plans to fence a section off Worthington Road and build a parking lot adjacent to an area rampant with deep ruts caused by off-road vehicle drivers. Access will be through a people- and horse-friendly gate, Hale says.

Hopefully that will all be in place before the (Green Top closure) occurs, Hale says.

The Southwest Regional Advisory Council to the Oregon Access and Habitat Board approved the JACTMA package at a meeting Monday in Central Point. It now goes to the seven-member state board for approval when it meets April 25 in Roseburg.

The package also includes a four-year extension of the motor vehicle ban from mid-October through April on about 45,400 acres of primarily industrial forest lands around Shady Cove. It also requests &

36;152,626 from a surcharge on hunting licenses to help pay for law enforcement and habitat-improvement projects.

The additional &

36;60,000 in the package would go largely for big-game habitat and road improvements in the Green Top area, Oredson says. A likely project will be rehabilitating the rutted areas off Worthington Road near the BLM's planned parking lot.

An additional &

36;150,400 is pledged over the next four years toward the project by industrial timberland companies and federal agencies whose lands and roads are intertwined in the JACTMA areas.

If adopted as expected by the statewide panel, the project goes to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for final approval at the commission's June 9 meeting in Salem.

The project has drawn support from adjacent private landowners disillusioned by off-road vehicle drivers who have illegally blazed new trails and otherwise scarred current roads by carving deep ruts in them during winter's muddy moments.

It's a de-facto mud-boggers' park, says Sandy Banks, a Worthington Road resident who supports the JACTMA expansion. The ruts are bad enough you can't walk or ride a horse on some of those roads.

Created in 1994 and first implemented in 1995, the JACTMA project bans motorized vehicles on selected forest roads as a way to reduce winter erosion, slow illegal dumping and big-game poaching as well as open more woods for deer and elk winter range.

People can still hike, ride horses and even ride mountain bicycles on the roads.

JACTMA is one of 61 seasonal closure areas throughout Oregon.

Twenty-seven people attended a Monday public meeting in Central Point on the proposal. Most were in favor of extending JACTMA, while a few hunters expressed interest in juggling the closure dates to allow vehicle access during the end of general deer season in late October.

Oredson says ODFW biologists want to keep the current closure format in place.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail Fighting winter erosion"mfreeman@mailtribune.com.