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Motor vehicle use public meeting Tuesday

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold a public meeting on its motor vehicle use classification and route designation proposals for the White Earth State Forest and scattered DNR forest lands in Becker, Clearwater, and Mahnomen counties. The meeting will be Tuesday, July 15 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Mahnomen High School, 209 First Street SW, Mahnomen.

The DNR will present information and receive comments on its proposals. Representatives from the land departments for Becker and Clearwater counties and White Earth Natural Resources will join the DNR at the meeting.

The White Earth State Forest is part of the greater West Central Forests planning unit that includes six state forests within a ten-county planning area. The West Central Group is divided into two subunits. The north unit includes Mississippi Headwaters and White Earth state forests and scattered forest lands in Becker, Beltrami, Clearwater, and Mahnomen counties. The south unit includes Huntersville, Lyons, Smoky Hills, and Two Inlets state forests and scattered forest lands in Clay, Douglas, Otter Tail, Pope, Todd, and Wadena counties.

The DNR is required to complete a classification review for all 58 of Minnesota's state forests by December. Planning for the west central group kicked-off in July 2006 when the DNR formed an interdisciplinary team of resource specialists to conduct the review. Five public open houses were held in the fall of 2006. Since then, the DNR team has worked closely with county and tribal representatives to develop its recommendations. Preliminary planning for the White Earth State Forest and Becker, Clearwater, and Mahnomen counties is complete and is now out for public comment. Planning for all other parts of the west central group have been completed and the recommendations are now being implemented.

Evaluation of routes, proposed designations

In all, the draft plan makes recommendations for about 125 miles of roads, trails, and other inventoried routes on approximately 70,000 acres of state forest lands in the state forest and associated scattered lands. The proposal, which includes some route closures, will ultimately determine where motorized vehicles, including cars, trucks, and off-highway vehicles (OHVs), will be allowed to operate on state lands in the forest and in these counties. This proposal was developed in cooperation with the land departments of Becker and Hubbard counties and White Earth Natural Resources in an effort to foster consistency across land ownerships.

Proposed forest classification

The motor vehicle use classification provides the framework for managing public motor vehicle use on DNR lands and associated forest roads and trails. All state forest lands in the planning area are currently classified as managed, which means trails are open unless posted closed. The proposal reclassifies the White Earth State Forest from managed to limited, which has trails closed to motor vehicle use unless posted open. This "closed unless posted open" policy would apply to all the trails inside the state forests and the scattered DNR-managed forest lands in the three counties. Forest roads are open to both highway-licensed vehicles and OHVs under either the managed or limited forest classification.

Areas with limitations on off-trail

and non-designated trail use

The draft plan recommends establishing areas on DNR Forestry-administered lands receive special protections from vehicular use. The limitations area occurs at two locations in the forest. One is at Snider Lake and provides motorized use restrictions on about 3,400 acres. The second is at Upper Rice Lake and restricts big game hunting and trapping motor vehicle access on approximately 4,700 acres. These areas were selected to protect sensitive resources, with improved hunter walking opportunities provided at Upper Rice Lake. The exceptions, which allow for both off-trail ATV travel and use of non-designated routes by highway licensed vehicles and OHVs for certain activities, would still be in force for the remaining balance of public forest lands.

Plans and maps now available

The DNR west central group's White Earth State Forest classification review and route designation proposals are available on the DNR Web site at

Written comments, questions, or requests for copies of the planning documents, should be directed to Bill Johnson, DNR Trails & Waterways, 500 Lafayette Road, Box 52, St. Paul, MN 55155-4052; or by calling (651) 259-5643 or toll free at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Written comments on the draft proposal will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 25.