Meadows sustain damage from off-highway vehicles
|Deep ruts in the meadow at the East end of Mountain Meadows Reservoir reveal the damage caused by vehicles Sunday, Dec. 2 that could impair hydrologic function. Photo submitted|
Dec. 11, 2012 — Damage to meadowlands near Westwood from off-road vehicles continues to occur on a regular basis, according to Jeff Pudlicki, district forester for WM Beatty & Associates. It happens in the spring and fall when the meadows get wet. The latest destruction took place Sunday, Dec. 2, on the east end of Mountain Meadows Reservoir following a series of rainstorms.
The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident. Sergeant Kevin Jones said the people who caused between $5,000 and $6,000 in damage have been identified and once the investigation is complete the case will be referred to the district attorney for a felony complaint of vandalism and trespassing.
“We are going to press charges. We need people to understand it is not acceptable behavior; they are tearing up environments,” said Pudlicki.
A second incident recently occurred on the roads in the meadow near the Westwood Gun Club. Pudlicki said this case is also under investigation by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office.
In response to an email about the negative impacts of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use in wet meadows, Ryan Burnett, director of the Sierra Nevada Group PRBO Conservation Science, sent a long list. They include the following:
•Disturbs wildlife including species such as the state threatened Greater Sandhill Crane that nest in Mountain Meadows and are sensitive to human disturbance such as OHV.
•Crushes the nests of the myriad of ground-nesting species that utilize meadows.
•Compacts fine-textured hydric soils, making them incapable of water absorption.
•Rips up the native sod destroying vegetative cover important for cattle forage and wildlife habitat and provides a seed bed for noxious weeds.
•Creates deep ruts and pits that can impair hydrologic function in meadows.
•Compromises stream banks leading to increased erosion and negatively impacts hydrologic function (through bank erosion and channel incision).
Burnett wrote, “I think the basic premise is this: OHV’ers are a growing segment of the recreational community and there is room to accommodate them on multi-use lands, but meadows and other wetlands are about the last place you want them to be.”
Pudlicki said TV commercials in which Jeeps and other rugged vehicles drive through creeks and mud promote the activity and, as a resource professional, the message troubles him. He added after talking about the problem for years he is ready to put gates up in order to keep people out, at least during the wet season.
“We haven’t made the decision yet but it is certainly being considered,” said Pudlicki.
He added he had observed people driving out Moonlight Road Sunday evening, Dec. 4, to observe the water and, even though they were not four-wheel driving through the meadows, it was damaging the dirt road. When water is running over a dirt road it is easily eroded, he said.
People should never drive off the roads in a meadow, said Pudlicki. And during the wet season they should stay off the roads.
Burnett wrote meadows are the single most important wildlife habitat in the Sierra Nevada.
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