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BlueRibbon Coalition


In our last Tellico alert, we noted that the Forest Service wants to close 11 miles of the paltry 39.5 miles that make up the upper Tellico OHV area. We were WRONG!

Sure, the official Forest Service (FS) document says 11 miles. But we neglected to mention that those 11 miles will cut the guts out of Tellico. We also neglected to tell you that the FS wants to PAVE Trail 1!

Yes, you read that right. The FS wants to pave Tipton Creek and allow street legal vehicles only.  Speaking of paving, the FS is also paving the way for the closure of Trail 11 (Chestnut Mountain).

In other words, those 11 miles literally cuts the heart right out of the OHV experience that is Tellico.  It's like someone removing the Matterhorn from the Alps!

Friends, we need to do what we can to stop this travesty. If the FS gets their way, you won't even need four-wheel drive on what is left in Tellico for trails.  Your mom's Oldsmobile would do fine.

When the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Trout Unlimited demanded an immediate closure, a team of OHV groups stepped up. BRC, in partnership with the United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA) and the Southern Four Wheel Drive Associations (SFWDA) has taken legal action to challenge the temporary emergency closure.

We need your help. We desperately need more comments to the Forest Service in support of Tellico. We formulated some new comment suggestions, so if you've sent comments before, you can do so again! Easy step by step instructions are below. The deadline is June 9, 2008 so do it now!

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102

PS: We need your donations to fund this effort for the benefit of all recreationists who enjoy the Tellico OHV experience.  Use our killer secure webpage to make your donation to SAVE TELLICO!


Please send an email to the Nantahala National Forest. Use the comment suggestions below. Be sure to add a bit of personal information.

If you want, you can use BRC's letter generator ( It has an easy interface for adding additional comments and sending your letter.


Be polite. Be Professional. Be on time. (The comment deadline is Wednesday, July 9, 2008)


  • Acceptable formats for electronic comments are text (.txt), MSWord 6.0 or higher (.doc), Portable Document Format (.pdf), or Rich Text Format (.rtf).
  • In the Subject Line of your email, please put: " Comments on Upper Tellico OHV System "
  • Paste in the name and address:
          Tusquitee District Ranger
          123 Woodland Drive
          Murphy, NC 28906
  • It's always good to include a brief paragraph about how much you and your family enjoy motorized use on National Forest lands.
  • Use the comment suggestions below in your email:

           Upper Tellico OHV System
           Steve Lohr, Tusquitee District Ranger
           123 Woodland Drive
           Murphy, NC 28906


The Forest Service scoping notice does not comply with the law and will not adequately provide recreational opportunities or access needs. The purpose and need statement is flawed.  The FS should be reopening and maintaining trails at Tellico instead of closing more trails.  If this action is motivated by an effort to reduce sedimentation in streams, then that should be the primary purpose of this analysis, which would result in a broad range of management alternatives, not just closing trails.

Regardless of the official purpose and need, the FS must generate a robust range of alternatives rather than the closure-focused options suggested by the scoping notice.  Every reasonable effort should be made to preserve access to the "challenge" sections that make Tellico famous and a destination icon for off-roaders.  There exist numerous management options short of closure that would preserve some level of access to these treasures.

I question the entire motivation for this action, which seems based on inaccurate science.  A Forest Plan standard to eliminate all visible sediment seems unreasonable and is not properly connected to specific resource needs.  The agency has failed to document that brook trout or other species need "sediment-free" watersheds to survive and propagate.  While proper watershed management, including erosion monitoring and management, is an appropriate general goal, there is no legal or practical reason to focus solely on restriction of OHV use toward such a goal.  For example, sedimentation in  Jenks Branch is coming largely from the Tipton Community rather than the OHV Area. The upper portion of the "Lower 2" trail does not drain in the watershed.  Even if it did, such issues  can be addressed through maintainance and active management.  Erosion challenges in many areas arise from poor route location, construction and/or associated logging practices.  The OHV community should not be punished for past failures to effectively plan and manage a route network.  Finally, but importantly, the FS must consider whether an amendment of Forest Plan standards is justified, as would clearly be allowable during this NEPA analysis.

It is inaccurate to say the FS has to close trails because of maintenance issues when they are the entity that did not perform the maintenance. SFWDA volunteers have been working for years in cooperation with the FS and now that relationship is being cast aside in an effort to pacify a less-involved and unyielding preservationist group.  Regardless of the ultimate solution, the FS seems committed to a frustrating policy of erring on the side of closure and capitulation in response to threats from preservationist special interests.

Monetary and staffing constraints are no excuse for trail closures.  Ironically, it is the motorized user community that has been successful in securing substantial funds for OHV management.  There are several grant and volunteer programs available, and the OHV community is committed to help provide the tools to address legitimate concerns about route maintenance.  Therefore, my comment is that you address any legitimate maintenance concerns by incorporating a training protocol into your plan that would train agency staff on how to apply for grants, use the available ICE-T Money, effectively manage volunteer programs, and learn about and apply for other funding sources.  In addition, you might consider MOUs or other similar agreements with recreational groups, such as the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association.

I believe that the USFS has not properly evaluated the impacts to the "human environment" of closing or restricting the Upper Tellico OHV Area.  These include not only socioeconomic impacts, but the prospect of actually INCREASING "environmental damage" by closing Tellico.  I believe that the economic impacts to the area have not been considered at all in determining the current proposed changes.  The FS needs to consider where the OHV operators who currently utilize the Upper Tellico OHV Area will go, and what damage may occur from that shift to other areas.  I believe that current plan for Upper Tellico OHV Area is unfair, unwise, and scientifically and economically unsound.

The proposal fails to address the need for opportunity and access.  The practical effect eliminates meaningful vehicle access to the area.  The rippling consequences of continuing and further closures will generate greater stress on the resources in the very few remaining areas for OHV recreation in the region.  Put differently, there could be a cumulative impact associated with excessive restrictions at Tellico.  By forcing more and more people onto smaller and fewer areas of opportunity, the proposed action will also have the outcome of creating greater conflicts.  The 15.5 miles of trails proposed for either closure or status change to paved road and the probable closure of an additional 2.74 miles within 2 years represent the heart of the Tellico OHV experience.  Without those miles and the quality of experience they bring, a 4wd is not even needed.  The Upper Tellico OHV Road and Trail System will have effectively been gutted and the provision of the criteria of recreational opportunities and access needs as outlined in the Travel Management Rule completely ignored.

About BlueRibbon Coalition
The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742.

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