December 19, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Michael “Squeak” Smith, North Carolina Council, Trout Unlimited: 828 205-2355
George Lane, Tennessee Council, Trout Unlimited: 865-414-1527
Trout Unlimited Encouraged by Forest Service Decision to Restore Water Quality and Protect Brook Trout in Tellico ORV Area
Maryville, TN/Morganton, NC -- Trout Unlimited expressed cautious optimism about a decision by the U.S Forest Service, announced today, that is intended to fix pressing water pollution and brook trout habitat loss caused by poorly managed off-road vehicle use (ORV) in key areas of the Nantahala National Forest. The agency said it will close all ORV trails in the Tellico area for the winter, the worst season of the year for sediment pollution of streams, and will close four badly eroded trail segments for a year.
TU and other conservation groups have been asking the Forest Service to address the problem for years. The conservation groups have had a series of conversations with the agency and ORV users since June when the conservation groups submitted a notice of their intent to sue the Forest Service for violating multiple state and federal water quality laws, and its own regulations. No lawsuit has been filed, although the groups’ notice is still pending.
“The positive steps outlined in the decision are badly needed” said Michael “Squeak” Smith, with the North Carolina Council of Trout Unlimited. “We applaud the Forest Service for, at last, listening to our concerns and for taking meaningful steps to address them.”
“Brook trout habitat in the Tellico, which has been damaged for years by ORV use in some watersheds, comprises some of the last best habitat for native brook trout in the southeastern region,” said George Lane, Chairman of the Tennessee Council of TU. “Agency studies show that streams within the Tellico area receive 500 to 1,000 times more sediment than similar streams just outside the trail system. That is no way to treat such an outstanding, regionally-significant resource, and we believe that the agency’s decision today will help us get on the right path to stream restoration,” said Lane.
“All recreational users of the Tellico area of the Nantahala should be heartened by the decision today because it is good for the long term sustainability of the Forest’s natural resources,” said Smith. “Today TU calls on all users of the Tellico ORV area, especially the responsible ORV users of the area, to join us in working with the Forest Service to implement its short term plan, and to develop a long term plan that will yield lasting restoration of Forest’s streams and brook trout populations,” said Smith.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation group. It has over 150,000 members from coast to coast, including over 3,500 members in North Carolina and over 2,300 members in Tennessee.