Published February 24, 2011, 12:00 AM

Forest Service wants to do away with unnecessary roads in grasslands

Nearly 2,500 miles of old road in the Little Missouri National Grasslands could be returned to nature and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service requests public input.

By: By Lisa Miller, The Dickinson Press

Nearly 2,500 miles of old road in the Little Missouri National Grasslands could be returned to nature and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service requests public input.

The Forest Service, Dakota Prairie Grasslands has worked on a study since 2007 to determine whether the public wants or needs the near 2,430 miles of oil well roads, Forest Service-created roads and roads that were created without authorization, said Paula Johnston, Forest Service, Dakota Prairie Grasslands.

A comment period for an old oil well road two miles south of Interstate 94 near the Painted Canyon Visitor Center ends Friday.

“The road was first created sometime in the 50s or 60s as a single-use road to access an oil well,” Forest Service Medora District Ranger Ron Jablonski Jr. said.

The well was plugged and the pad reclaimed in the late 80s or early 90s, but the road was kept as a system road to provide access to a range facility, he said.

“Maintenance of the road was the responsibility of the permittee who has since become deceased,” Jablonski said. “The current grazing permittee has indicated that this road is no longer needed for his operations, and there do not appear to be any reasons to maintain this portion of the road so we are proposing to decommission and reclaim it.”

The decommissioning and reclamation process includes removing the road and returning it to natural contours, disposing the culverts and signs and seeding the disturbed area, Jablonski said, adding it would reduce long-term road maintenance costs.

The review of the roads is part of the Travel Management Plan, Johnston said.

Unmanaged recreation, including destructive impacts from off-highway vehicles, represents one of the major threats facing the nation’s forests and grasslands, according to the website, according to the Forest Service website.

Eileen Andes, TRNP chief of interpretation and public affairs said the proposed project is close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park but not affect access to the park.

Written comments may be sent to Ronald W. Jablonski Jr., District Ranger, Medora Raner District, 99 23rd Ave. W., Suite B, Dickinson, ND 58601 or e-mail comments to comments-northern-dakota-prairie-medora@fs.fed.us.

The Forest Service asks that commenters be specific in their responses. They can include contact information or remain anonymous and need to include the name of the project they are commenting on.

Questions can be directed to Justin Krieg, the project team leader, at 701-227-7837.

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