Successes: Anderson Creek OHV Area

ohv play area example
Example of an OHV play area. Photo provided by Outreach Coordinator Laura LeMay

Anderson Creek OHV Area

For many years we worked to stop out-of-control, illegal abuse of the Anderson Creek OHV Area. Motorized recreation was not appropriate on these steep highly erodible slopes. Silt was bleeding into trout streams, and the vehicles negatively affected wildlife and other forest users. We were elated to the efforts of ForestWatch and our many partners finally pay off when the Forest Service announced its decision to permanently close the Anderson Creek OHV Area.

Public Opinion: ForestWatch members and friends speak out

In January 2008, just as the last Anderson Creek public comment period was coming to a close members and friends of ForestWatch rallied to tell the Forest Service know how they felt about closing Anderson Creek. The Forest Service received over 500 public comments and 80% of them were in support of permanently closing the Anderson Creek OHV Area. Thank you to all those who took action. Working together we made a difference!

Anderson Creek OHV Area closed permanently

On May 23, 2008, the U.S. Forest Service announced that after five years of analysis the agency had decided to permanently close the Anderson Creek Off-Highway Vehicle Area. This decision culminates a decade-long campaign by Georgia ForestWatch to end the damage that off-road vehicles were causing in this sensitive area. ForestWatch volunteers and staff spent countless hours hiking the eroding user created trails (gullies) and documenting the degradation of this portion of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The Anderson Creek area should never have been selected as a motorized playground as it contains several high quality trout streams and extremely steep ground. The Anderson Creek OHV Area was opened in 1987 for anyone to ride any type of motorized vehicle anywhere. One has to wonder what the Forest Service was thinking when they designated this beautiful part of the mountains for people to ride vehicles with rough tread tires anywhere. People did in fact ride everywhere, including in streams and springs and up and down the steepest slopes, even knocking down trees in the process.

By 2000, the Forest Service had fielded numerous complaints from hunters, fishers, hikers and adjoining property owners. Large areas were denuded of vegetation and spring heads were turned into mud bogs. With every rain, silt poured into Anderson Creek. The noise level was such that the traditional activities of hunting, botanizing and fishing became impossible. Georgia ForestWatch’s comprehensive off-road vehicle survey of the entire Chattahoochee National Forest in that year identified Anderson Creek as the worst area of resource damage on the forest.

Next, the Forest Service tried to restrict motorized activity to designated trails. This approach failed as all the signage marking legal trails was destroyed and off-road enthusiasts continued to ride where they pleased. Illegal, user-created trails spread in all directions and spilled over into adjoining private land and county roads. Serious trespass occurred. By 2003, Georgia ForestWatch had brought this matter to the attention of local news media and several stories were published. The pressure on the Forest Service to correct the situation grew.

The agency then temporarily closed the area for rehabilitation and study, spending over $60,000 on repairs to regain control of the area and to analyze the situation for proposing a solution. Five years later, after several public comment periods, the expensive rehabilitation and a lengthy and even more expensive environmental analysis by a private contractor, the Forest service finally made the decision to permanently close the area.

This is a great victory that means continued healing for this abused area and we commend the Forest Service for making this courageous decision.

Georgia ForestWatch stands ready to assist the Forest Service in supporting this decision.

More information

*USFS Anderson Creek OHV Area Environmental Assessment (EA)
*ForestWatch response to the EA
*USFS original proposal 2005
*WildLaw response to original proposal
*Samples of letters submitted along the way by ForestWatch volunteers
*Excerpts from ForestWatch’s 2001 Environmental Impact Report

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