2007 OHV Trail Update

September 6, 2007

Hello Lake Owners,

Last year the Citizens for Responsible ATV Use were successful in defeating the controversial 70 mile dirt bike/ATV trail that would have come close to many of our homes. Again, thank you for all your efforts in letter writing, phone calls, and attending what seemed to be endless meetings.

In this process, most of us have agreed that driving and riding OHVs can be a supported form of outdoor recreation in Becker County if appropriate facilities and programs are developed to accommodate this sport in appropriate areas. The challenge is that the ATV clubs have clearly stated they want access to ALL of the tax forfeited land in our area and are calling us “anti-access” which is grossly untrue. Those of us who live here want a policy that can accommodate all of our needs without detriment to any group that enjoys the forests of Becker County. Our group has been successful in requesting that Becker County create OHV policies and guidelines that will accommodate all of our needs and concerns.

The challenges associated with ATV trails near our homes are still the same as last year. We are hoping that this new committee will develop guidelines for designating truly sustainable OHV trails as well as protecting the rights and experiences of home owners and people who enjoy activities in the forest that are truly incompatible with the motorized sports.

The committee is composed of the following groups: landowner/township supervisors, White Earth, ATV groups, resort owners, Tamarac, Deer Hunters Assoc, traditional forest users, and the Park Board. Law Enforcement and Mary Broten of DNR are in official advisory capacities. The Facilitators of this working group are Will Yliniemi and Guy Fischer, both employees of Becker County. Some other names you might recognize, especially from our area are

  • Jim Childs representing Round Lake Township,
  • Ray Vlasak representing Forest Township and the new North Country Trail coming through Becker County near Juggler Lake,
  • Doug Schumann of Rainbow Resort and also newly elected Vice President of our Lake Association,
  • Barbara Boyle, Refuge Manager of Tamarac,
  • Katherine Warren of White Earth Band,
  • Dick Knutson of Savannah Township and also representing ATV groups,
  • Willis Mattison former employee of MN Pollution Control with extensive background in environmental issues and group process and is also representing the “traditional” users of the forest,
  • Jim Reynolds of Maplelag Resort representing the “quiet” sports,
  • Carolyn Thorkildson of the Eagle View Township Board,
  • Joe Vesy, Woods and Wheels ATV Club, and
  • Mark E. “Chip” Lohmeier of the Park Board (the one who pushed for the 70 continuous mile trail near our homes).

Other names that perhaps you might recognize representing various groups either as delegate or alternate are Jay Richards, Steve Tucker, Dennis Mace, Luke Sweere, Doyle Turner of Eagle View, John Erickson, Lance Dorff, Bill Henke, and Ron Jensen.

As you can see, this is a diverse group. You are welcome to contact any one of these persons with your thoughts and concerns. The Thursday weekly meetings are held 7-8:30 PM at the Human Resources Building, 2nd floor, 712 Minnesota Avenue, Detroit Lakes through September or until their work is completed. As only the official representatives can address the committee, observers are allowed to comment or ask questions by passing notes to the person you wish to address the committee on your behalf.

The DNR Forest Classification process that our group requested has been completed for Two Inlets and Smokey Hills. Nathan Bowe did an excellent report on this topic published Wednesday, March 14, 2007 (see DL-Online). Because 75% of the public land of White Earth State Forest is tax-forfeited land managed by Becker County, it is believed that DNR is waiting for Becker County to release their plans before DNR will announce if the state owned land is closed, limited, or managed. In the interim, DNR has been meeting with White Earth Tribal Representatives. Legislative mandate states that the DRN classification must be completed by December, 2008. If Becker County does not develop and approve its plan, then White Earth State Forest will default to the state classification that has been deemed limited, or unless Becker Count opts out, which will then have another set of regulations that must be followed.

White Earth State Forest extends into Clearwater and Mahnomen counties as well, so this is a very complicated process involving not only county governments, but the sovereign national lands of the White Earth Band. Currently, there is no policy for White Earth State Forest or our county administered land. A policy is needed not only for land protection and other recreationers, but also for enforcement by DNR, the county, and tribal officers.

Below is a review of the classification for state forest lands. The lines in italics are the definitions used in the committee meetings. Other notations are from DNR handouts or employees:

Closed Forest

  • Motor vehicle use is not permitted except highway licensed vehicles on forest roads that are not posted or gated closed.
  • There are some exceptions issued by the Commissioner of DNR on designated trails.
  • Motorized vehicles are those with tires; this does not apply to snowmobiles.

Limited Forest

  • Motor vehicle use is permitted on forest roads unless posted “closed”
  • Motor vehicle use is not permitted on forest trails unless posted “open”:
  • Motorized vehicles are those with tires; this does not apply to snowmobiles.
  • Designated trails are open only by type of use (OHM, ATV, or ORV).
  • State forest roads, minimum maintenance roads and other township roads are open to all motorized uses but all other trails are closed unless posted open.
  • Becker Co. decides what roads are forest roads, forest trails or minimum maintenance roads. An example a of minimum maintenance road would be S.E. Juggler Road. An example of a forest trail would be the road/trail going off Elbow Lake Road to SW Juggler to the boat launch. The debate continues for some residents regarding the classification of SW Juggler Road itself.

Managed Forest

  • Motor vehicle use is permitted on forest roads and trails, unless posted “closed”.
  • All state forest roads and forest trails are open to recreational motor vehicle use unless posted closed.
  • Designated trails are open only to OHM, ATV or ORV uses.
  • State forest roads are open to all motorized uses.
  • Motorized vehicles are those with tires; this does not apply to snowmobiles.
  • Unsigned routes are open to all motor vehicles, subject to prohibitions on rutting, erosion and/or damage to trees.

There are some exceptions to the above for hunting, trapping, and big game retrieval as well as what applies to tribal members within the boundaries of White Earth Reservation. For more information see the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ or contact White Earth Chief Conservation Officer Alfred Fox at 218-935-2557.

Currently in Becker County all trails on tax forfeited lands are currently undesignated and therefore open to motorized and non-motorized uses.

The work of the above named policy committee is trying to work with all groups, giving motorized recreationers places to ride while protecting property and other recreational interests as well. It is important for all of us to promote responsible ATV riding by reporting damage or violations to the tip hotline listed below with any information you have. One does not need to actually see the violation happening. Your report could be the result of a violation. Coleen Adams DNR OHV Recreation Officer based in Park Rapids recently stated in a committee meeting that most of their work is follow up; therefore, any information reported such as color of ATV, male or female riders, time of day, etc. is helpful for the officers to investigate any violation. Of course, registration numbers would be most helpful for investigations.

Report any violations or damage from violations to the following:

ATV Tip Hotline: 1-800-652-9093

White Earth Tribal Chief Conservation Office

Toll Free: 1-877 597-0181
Office: 218-935-2557
Dispatch: 218-983-3281
Cell: 218-849-0181

DNR Conservation Officer, Al Peterson of Osage: 218-564-5641

DNR Conservation Officer Joe Stattelman of Detroit Lakes: 218-847-2249

Becker County Sheriff: 218-847-2661
Or 911

There is another meeting of interest that has been advertised. The company hired by DNR to do annual audits of DNR for Forest Stewardship Council Certification is coming to MN to do the second annual audit. There will be a public hearing in Bemidji on September 12th from 7 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at the Beltrami Electric Cooperative Inc. 4111 Technology Drive, NW Bemidji; phone 218-444-2540. Several from our community will be addressing the continuing concerns for sustainable use and stewardship of OHV use on state forest lands.

If you need any additional information from this report, contact me at the cabin, 218-734-2591, in Alabama at 251-987-1389, or email me at sthree@gulftel.com .

For a map of the area described above and what the current classification looks like click below:
http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/input/mgmtplans/ohv/designation/westcentral/white_earth.pdf