Motor Access Plan Approved for North St. Louis County State Forests in Minnesota

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Motor Access Plan Approved for North St. Louis County State Forests in MinnesotaFinal forest classification and motor vehicle route designation plans have been approved for four forests in northern St. Louis County, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These state forests are Bear Island, Burntside, Kabetogama, and Lake Jeanette.

As a result, most state forest lands located inside the Superior National Forest (with several exceptions) will be classified as “limited” and state lands outside will retain their current “managed” motor vehicle classification.

This classification change will take effect Sept. 1, 2009. “Limited” means roads and trails are closed unless posted (signed) open to off-highway vehicle (OHV) use. In “managed” forests, roads and trails are open to motorized use unless posted closed. State lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will remain “closed” to all motor vehicle use.

The DNR worked closely with U.S. Forest Service and St. Louis County representatives to develop this plan in an effort to improve consistency across public forest ownerships, said Jim Rupert, acting forestry regional manager in Grand Rapids.

“The purpose of the plan is to protect resources and provide places for both OHV riding and non-motorized use,” said Rupert.

Exceptions to the plan include Kabetogama State Forest, which will remain classified as managed in its entirety, including that portion located inside National Forest boundaries. Other exceptions include eight special sites totaling just over 8,300 acres (state lands) that will have restricted motor vehicle access due primarily to a long history of predominantly non-motorized use.

Nearly 200 miles of state forest roads will be designated under the plan, as will 32 miles of DNR hunter walking trails and nearly 13 miles of OHV trails, including portions of both the Taconite and Arrowhead State Trails. No changes are planned to other area snowmobile trails.

About 35 miles of existing, unsustainable routes (those that cannot sustain motorized use) will be closed year-round to vehicular traffic. Another 63 miles of routes will remain non-designated. Non-designated trails in limited forests are closed to motor vehicles, except for licensed hunters and trappers who may use vehicles seasonally for those activities. Non-designated routes in managed forests remain open to vehicle use year-round.

“Every effort was made to retain traditional motor access into the area, while meeting forest management objectives and environmental protection considerations,” Rupert said.

The plan was developed in response to a legislative directive to re-examine vehicle use in all 58 state forests. The final forest classification and route designation plan and maps are available at www.mndnr.gov.

More information is available from Brian McCann, DNR Trails & Waterways, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4052, 651-259-5627, or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).