Sierran Masthead

Write to Keep Off-Road Vehicles Out of Hoosier National Forest

Off-road vehicles (ORVs) could invade the Hoosier National Forest if the vocal ORV lobby, backed by manufacturers and distributors, gets its way. In answer to the lobbying effort, the Hoosier Chapter is urging members to write to the U.S. Forest Service, asking that it maintain its 12-year-old ban on dirt bikes, four-wheel drive jeeps, and other recreational vehicles.

No to ORVs

The chapter recently sent a letter to Sierra Club members in southern counties close to the Hoosier. It explains that the Forest Service is working on its new management plan, and that the ORV constituency is using the public comment period to push for admittance in the forest. The Forest Service needs our support to uphold its ORV ban.

Greg Foote, forest issues coordinator for the Hoosier Chapter, encourages all Sierra Club members to write to the forest supervisor. “The ORV supporters are out in greater numbers, demanding access to our heritage woods. We must help the Forest Service make the right decision again in 2001. The forest itself has no voice; we must speak for it,” said Foote. The Hoosier Chapter Executive Committee is considering an ORV policy statement on this issue. The reasons are apparent to the most casual forest visitors.

ORVs widen rutted trails and recklessly forge new ones. Through compaction and erosion, they destroy the forest floor, harm water filtration, muddy the streams, and degrade watershed resources. They endanger plants and animals--rare, threatened, and healthy. Permanent and migrant birds lose nesting sites, cover, and habitat. The forest incurs great harm from the unnatural invasion of gouging, offensive noise and harmful fumes.

Human users also suffer. Like neighborhood bullies, motorized recreationists take over the playground. Solitude, peace, and quiet are shattered. Often hikers are forced off the trails. “Multiple use should not be used to defend multiple abuse,” Foote said.

ORVs were banned from the Hoosier National Forest in 1989. At that time, it was the only national forest closed to ORVs. “Most states are having big problems because they let the ORVs in,” said Foote. “The Forest Service cannot adequately monitor and enforce even slight permitted access.

“The Forest Service has to seek public input, for we are the owners. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, public input is not counted as a vote. Good reasons and reasonable pressure are what tally. Secondly, not only are there more ORVs out there than a dozen years ago, but they have backing from corporations such as Exxon, Chevron, the American Petroleum Institute, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. They have a bottom line--to sell the product--be it gasoline or machines. Our bottom line is forest preservation and restoration.” Speak for the Forest!

The most effective way to register comments is in your own words, preferably in a letter. A personal note on a postcard is the next best option.

Please send your comments to:
Mr. Kenneth Day, Supervisor
Hoosier National Forest
811 Constitution Avenue
Bedford, Indiana 47421
Fax: (812) 297-3423

Q & A with Forest Issues Coordinator

The Indiana Sierran asked Greg Foote, chapter forest issues coordinator, a few questions about the ORV threat to the Hoosier National Forest. A forest activist since 1983, Foote is also a member of Protect Our Woods, Heartwood, and the Indiana Forest Alliance.

Q: Why shouldn’t ORVs be allowed in some parts of the HNF?
Foote: That sounds like such a reasonable request: “We’ll only do a little bit of damage.” A forest is a living, growing organism, and motorized vehicles are alien to its nature and ecological functions. This is one case for the old saying, Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Q: What arguments are the off-road vehicle users giving to the Forest Service?
Foote: “It’s our forest, too. We have a right. There’s room in there for everybody. We don’t keep others out. We’ll work and keep the trails good.”

Q: What difference will my letter against ORVs make?
Foote: The more personal it is, the more difference it will make. They tally the comments pro and con. We employ the Forest Service to manage our forest, and if we speak, they will hear. If everyone writes, they will really hear.

Q: What are your favorite parts of the HNF?
Foote: Never ask a parent, Who’s your favorite child? I like the parts where, when I walk in, I can feel it taking me in. I like to feel its permanence and immobility, its imposing silent communication. I am honored that it has stood there for generations, waiting for me. The forest offers humility, sublimity, and dignity that I share with its beings and they share with me.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[8/11/02]efp

Spring 2001