Advocacy: CT Forest Action Plan

Friday, December 4, 2020

**Immediate Action Needed**

The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) is updating their Forest Action Plan

The Connecticut Forest Action Plan acts as a guide for the Division of Forestry and hopefully inspires others to improve and protect Connecticut's forest resources for future generations. Created in collaboration with many partners and stakeholders, the Forest Action Plan aims to identify issues and prioritize important areas, values, and needs. The Connecticut Forest Action Plan analyzes the current conditions and trends of forests in Connecticut and lays out strategies and action steps to best plan for the future of the forested landscape.

The 2020 update of the Connecticut Forest Action Plan is nearly complete after much research and input from DEEP staff, stakeholders, and the public over many months. Below is a draft for public review. The comment period will last until December 11, 2020.

 

NEMBA was not contacted for input and does not believe mountain biking (or recreation) is accurately represented in this Forest Action Plan.

Review the draft plan on this site: CT Forest Action Plan

 

Feedback Guidance:

 

  • A link to the complete plan is below, along with excerpts from the plan that are specific to mountain biking and trail access. We encourage you to review the details and provide your thoughts on why better representation of mountain biking is important to you.
     

  • Option 1 - Use this template to create your response, and paste into an email to the address above.

 

  • Option 2- Create your own response leveraging the following suggested topics, and send to the address above.

    • Do you support recreational access to Connecticut's State Forests?

    • Do you feel mountain biking should be a focus of Connecticut's State Forests? 

    • Do you support creating an active management plan between DEEP and NEMBA to maintain and improve the trails leveraging trained NEMBA resources to assist with storm damage/downed trees, trail maintenance, etc.

    • Why are the trail systems in State Forests important to your health and well-being

    • How many years you’ve used the trail systems and frequency of use

    • Note what activities you use the trail system for (biking, hiking, snowshoeing, etc)

    • Do you use the system with your family

    • Do you visit local businesses when you use State Forests?

    Please keep all comments and suggestions positive. We have a positive working relationship with CT DEEP and only want to strengthen it. 

    The Action Plan has little to no mention of mountain biking, or the recreational benefit that Connecticut's forests provide. There is a heavy focus on the timber industry and motorized users, with a small recreational portion focused on hiking. 

    NEMBA has a strong relationship with DEEP partners throughout the State and provides a very significant source of volunteer hours for maintaining trails in State forests. 

    Mountain biking, and our strong community of volunteers, is an asset to State forests. The report makes no mention of the work NEMBA has done to create sustainable trail networks, correct erosion problems on unsustainable trails, or the countless volunteer hours that go into maintaining the existing trail networks for multiple types of trail users. 

    Some sections worth highlighting:

    (Page 47) Section 12.1 - Timber Industry Value Proposition

    - There is no mention of the value of the Recreational Industry. Studies have shown the recreational industry has vast positive economic impacts while being low impact to the forests. 

    (Page 52) Section 13.4 - Mountain Biking

    - This very short paragraph is nearly the only mentioning of mountain biking in the report. It notes the rising popularity (but the overall report does not capture that) yet highlights the 'substantial unauthorized use' of trail networks. This paragraph needs to be elaborated on to provide evidence to their claims, as well as provide a path for authorizing networks. There is clearly a demand for mountain biking, yet they do not outline any suggestions on how to meet that demand. It should be noted that Dirt Bikes/ATVs receive multiple paragraphs and outlines steps to address concerns. 

    (Page 109) Desired Future Conditions - Section 7 

    Subset "d"

    - This highlight their partnership with the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. This section should also highlight the existing relationship between NEMBA and DEEP land managers. 

    Subset "h"

    - Increase funding for 'off-road vehicles'. This does not specifically highlight mountain biking or other low impact trail users. Motorized off-road vehicles, such at ATVs and Dirt Bikes have significant impacts and pose high risks to Connecticut's forests. Mountain Biking and other non-motorized users should be prioritized. 

     

    Overall, the value of outdoor recreation in Connecticut's forest is drastically underrepresented in this plan. NEMBA has a strong relationship with many DEEP partners and feels these relationships are crucial for the stewardship of trails throughout the State. This Forest Action Plan will guide decisions on State Forests for years to come. We must ensure accurate representation of the recreation community, especially mountain biking. 

    This Forest Action Plan references the 2017 Connecticut Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). NEMBA provided comment on this plan before finalization and feel the concerns of the mountain biking community were not accurately represented in that report either. The next SCORP will be develped in 2022 and NEMBA hopes to be a key stakeholder.

     

    Please provide comment by December 11th. Comments can be directed to Daniel Peracchio, CT DEEP Division of Forestry. Send to NEMBA at comments@nemba.org and we will send to CT DEEP.

    Thank you!