Assistant Monument Manager Responds to Closing Roads Inquiry
Dear Joel Brumm,
Someone just told me that they heard on the TV News that the BLM is closing all of its roads in the Monument because it cannot afford to maintain them.
What do you know????
-- Barbara Ann
Dear Barbra Ann,
Well, like most good rumors, there is a kernel of truth buried deep there. We are in the midst of a transportation planning process for the Monument, and we are continuing with work that we identified in the 2008 Resource Management Plan as needing to be completed. Kathy Minor, myself, and several others went before the Jackson County Commissioners in early February to discuss this plan in advance of the draft Environmental Assessment that will be released for public comment on March 25, 2016.
The BLM is NOT planning on closing all the roads in the Monument. We have one alternative, the one that proposes closing the most roads would close 164 miles of the 412 miles of roads currently in the Monument. As you can see, even this alternative leaves approximately 3/4 of the current Monument roads open. These are largely old logging network roads that are not needed under our Monument designation because we are no longer commercially harvesting timber. Major arterial roads such as Soda Mountain, Emigrant Creek, Jenny Creek, etc. will not be affected. We also are proposing, under one alternative, to close the gate on Skookum Road past the Soda Mountain Lookout road, which would hopefully help address the OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) trespass in the corridor between the power lines going down towards Agate Flats.
We have very limited funding for road maintenance in the Monument, and that is one factor driving this process. We would prefer to use our limited road maintenance funds for important roads and not to maintain the maze of old logging roads, particularly north of Hwy 66. If left unmaintained, these roads will deteriorate, culverts will clog, roads will eventually wash out, and sediment will end up in the Monument aquatic systems causing significant deleterious impacts.
There was a news article about the briefing we had with the Jackson County Commissioners that generated a lot of interest. On March 25, we will release the draft Environmental Assessment followed by a public comment period of at least 45 days. I encourage anyone to comment on the plan.
In summary, the BLM has no plans to close all the roads, but we also suspect the current transportation system is in excess of our needs going forwards as a National Monument.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
--Joel Brumm, Assistant Monument Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Medford, OR 97504