State forest classification plan completed for East-Central Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has approved the final forest classification and route designation plan for six state forests located in an eight-county planning unit in East-Central Minnesota. The plan, which includes route designations for the D.A.R., Hill River, Land O’ Lakes, Savanna, Snake River and Waulenabo state forests, was developed in response to a legislative directive to re-examine vehicle use in all 58 state forests.
The DNR worked closely with Aitkin, Cass, Kanabec and Pine County land managers in developing the plan in an effort to improve consistency across public forest lands in the region.
“The purpose of the plan is to protect resources and to provide places for both OHV riding and non-motorized use,” said Craig Engwall, DNR regional director, Grand Rapids.
FOREST CLASSIFICATION CHANGES
Effective Sept. 1, 2009, most state forest lands located in this eight-county area will be classified as limited, which means that forest roads will remain open, but trails will be closed to off-highway vehicle (OHV) use unless signed open. Most of the inventoried routes in the forest will, however, still remain available seasonally for hunter / trapper use under state law.
Exceptions to this general rule are 15 areas with special motor vehicle use limitations located in Aitkin, Cass, Kanabec and Pine counties. In these areas vehicle use will be generally restricted to designated roads and trails only. Together, these areas cover about 28,000 acres. In four of the areas, no Off-Highway Vehicle use will be allowed at all. All of these special areas are ecologically sensitive and most have a long history of non-motorized hunter use. The DNR will work cooperatively with county land managers to clearly map and sign these areas, and to improve hunter access into these areas.
FOREST ROAD AND TRAIL DESIGNATIONS
Under the plan, 143 miles of forest roads and 208 miles of trails will be developed, including nearly 52 miles of hunter walking trails, 86 miles of other non-motorized trails, and more than 70 miles of off-highway vehicle trails. Another 53 miles of unsustainable routes will be immediately closed under the plan. No changes are planned to area snowmobile trails.
“Every effort was made to retain traditional motor access into the area,” explained Engwall, “subject to forest management objectives and environmental protection considerations.”