Under state law, the DNR is required to complete a classification review for all 58 of Minnesota's state forests by December 2008. Planning for the east-central forests began in July 2007. Five public open houses were held in the fall. A team of DNR resource specialists conducted the review, working closely with Aitkin and Cass counties in developing recommendations. Preliminary planning is complete and ready for public comment.
ROAD AND TRAIL DESIGNATIONS
The draft plan makes recommendations for about 1,000 miles of roads, trails and other routes on roughly 363,000 acres of state forest lands in east-central Minnesota. The proposal, which includes some route closures, will ultimately determine where motorized vehicles, including cars, trucks and off-highway vehicles (OHVs), will be allowed to operate on state lands in the county. In addition, Aitkin and Cass counties are making county land route recommendations for motor vehicle use on about 220 miles in Aitkin County and 400 miles in Cass County.
The motor vehicle use classification provides the framework for managing motor vehicle use on Minnesota DNR lands, forest roads and trails. Minnesota's three classifications are managed, limited and closed. Right now, all state forest lands in the east-central forests are classified as managed, except for the Snake River State Forest, which is limited. Under state law, the managed classification is no longer available south of U.S. Highway 2. Thus, the proposal reclassifies all state and county forest lands as either limited or closed.
On limited forest lands, trails are closed to motor vehicle use unless posted as open, while forest roads are open to both highway-licensed vehicles and OHVs. On closed forest lands, trails are closed to motor vehicles and only highway-licensed vehicles may operate on forest roads.
State Forests Motor Vehicle Use Classification
Hill River Limited
Land O' Lakes Limited
Savanna Limited & Closed
Snake River Limited & Closed
Scattered State Forest Lands Motor Vehicle Use Classification
Anoka County Limited
Aitkin County Limited
Chisago County Limited
Isanti County Limited
Kanabec County Limited & Closed
Pine County Limited & Closed
South Cass County Limited
Washington County Limited
AREAS OF LIMITATIONS
The draft plan recommends that several sites (approximately 58,127 acres) receive special protections from vehicular use. There are two sites in Aitkin County (10,603 acres), 12 sites in Cass County (44,995 acres), and two sites in Kanabec County (2,529 acres).
These "areas with limitations" sites have unique or sensitive resources or have existing nonmotorized uses. The proposal would prohibit OHV use on DNR or county forest lands within these areas year-round, including by hunters and trappers. The use of nondesignated routes by highway licensed vehicles and OHVs for hunting and trapping purposes would still be permitted on the balance of forest lands within the planning unit, except on lands classified as closed.
PUBLIC REVIEW MEETINGS
The DNR will hold three public meetings on this proposal:
Sept. 23, Aitkin High School, 306 Second St. N.W., Aitkin
Sept. 24, Mora High School, 400 E. Maple Ave., Mora
Sept. 25, Pine River/Backus High School, 801 First St. N., Pine River.
Meetings will run from 6 - 8:30 pm. The first hour will allow people to informally review the plan, maps and other materials. The DNR and county officials will be on hand to answer questions. During the remainder of the meeting, DNR will present its proposal, respond to questions, and accept oral and written comments. The DNR east-central state forest classification and route designation proposals are available online at www.mndnr.gov or at www.findthetrails.com.