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FEATURE NEWS

REITER FOOTHILLS: CHANGES ARRIVE THIS WEEKEND
May 02, 2009




Aug. 2008 State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland joins volunteers in the Reiter Forest for a day working to prevent impacts to area streams. Photo: Ron Whitehall.
(OLYMPIA, WA) – If you’re an ORV (off road vehicle) enthusiast then chances are you either know about the Reiter Foothills forest area just off Highway 2 in the upper Sky Valley area or already use it for recreation on your dirt bike or four wheel variety of ORV.

It turns out that so many folks know about Reiter – and so many people have been using the area – that it’s being “loved to death” like so many popular and over used hiking trails in the state.

That is why starting this weekend ORV enthusiasts will notice something different in the Reiter Foothills State Forest -- a 10,000 acre continuous block of forest land located between Gold Bar and Index that is sandwiched in between Highway 2 and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Starting yesterday Reiter Foothills became the focus of an intensive education and awareness campaign, lead by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in cooperation with local and state law enforcement agencies and volunteers from the community.

For years that expanse of forest has been an immensely popular destination for outdoor recreation, particularly so with ORV riders.

As a result, unauthorized trail building and riding in environmentally sensitive areas has strained the area’s natural resources, especially fish-bearing streams and streambeds.

In addition, littering, garbage dumping, vandalism and unsafe shooting of firearms have contributed to the problem and created concerns for public safety, according to authorities.

“If you’ve been to Reiter, you know how bad the situation is,” said Larry Raedel, Chief Law Enforcement Officer for DNR in a statement. “Responsible ORV riders have been our allies, and now you’re going to see a lot more law enforcement officers, DNR staff, and volunteers patrolling the area and talking to the public about where they can and cannot ride and camp.”

In addition to increased law enforcement presence, DNR staff will post signs throughout the area that will clearly communicate where the public can recreate and what kinds of behavior are not acceptable.

“We’re emphasizing education and awareness,” Raedel said. “We want Reiter Hills to be a safe, enjoyable place to visit. But if we see anyone engaging in illegal activities, we will issue citations.”

DNR has reallocated existing funds on a one-time basis to pay for additional law enforcement officers from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office through June 30th. They will assist in enforcement issues with officers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

LONG TERM PLAN FOR REITER COMES THIS SUMMER

The education and awareness campaigns last through June 30th and after June DNR will debut a new recreation plan that will guide the management of recreational activities in the forest area.

The plan is the result a year long cooperative effort between DNR and a special citizens’ advisory committee that consists of representatives from diverse user groups and local community members.

These individuals have been, and are, are working collaboratively to come up with recommendations for use of the forest based on the best available science. The public will be able to comment on a draft of that report when it goes through the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review process.

For more information about Reiter Foothills, contact DNR Northwest Region Office staff: Bill Wallace at 360-854-2801, or Candace Johnson at 360-854-2803.

DNR manages more than 5 million acres of state-owned forest, aquatic, agricultural, conservation and urban lands. Most of the recreation on these lands takes place in the 2.2 million acres of forests that DNR manages as state trust lands.

By law, state trust lands are managed to produce income for schools, universities, prisons, state mental hospitals, community colleges, local services in many counties, and the state’s general fund. State trust lands are also managed to provide fish and wildlife habitat and educational and recreational opportunities.

DNR-managed lands provide 1,100 miles of hiking and ORV trails, 143 recreation sites, and a variety of landscapes throughout Washington State. Recreational opportunities on the lands include hiking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, motorized vehicle riding, mountain biking, and boating.

DNR’s main recreation focus is to provide trails, trailhead facilities, and a primitive experience in a natural setting.

For more information about Reiter Foothills, contact DNR Northwest Region Office staff: Bill Wallace at 360-854-2801, or Candace Johnson at 360-854-2803.

REITER FOREST PLAN BACKGROUND

The Department of Natural Resources, recreation users and local citizens have been working together for some time to come up with a plan for future recreation needs in Reiter Foothills State Forest.

Because thousands of visitors annually use the trails and facilities in Reiter Forest to enjoy off-road vehicle riding, horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking, the forest has been subjected to over use with a great deal of environmental damage occurring in stream and streamside habitats.

DNR, the Departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife, and the Tulalip Tribes had earlier jointly identified some interim measures to protect the area against further damage. But the area has long had a pressing need for well-planned recreation facilities and trails.

Since April of 2008 a 15-member advisory committee of motorized and non-motorized recreation users, local citizens, surrounding property managers, and city and county representatives have been working collaboratively to create a long-term plan for the forest. The group meets regularly to learn more about the recreational needs in the area and to determine how best to provide for different types of recreational uses.

Sky Valley residents can learn more about the Reiter Foothills project here: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/RecreationEducation/Topics/RecreationPlanning/Pages/amp_rec_reiter_foothills.aspx





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