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Four tree two remember Andrew
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The Monongahela National Forest issued a scoping letter on June 10, 2004, and has asked for comments on the road use permission request for Rally West Virginia. Apparently, this has energized the environmental community into responding en mass in opposition to the permission request. The comment period is until July 10, 2004.

We would appreciate you sending in comments to dispel the misperception by the environmental community that rally events are destructive to the environment, and in support of the proposed use, emphasizing your choice of any of the following points, or any other points you may see fit which are supportive of the road use request:

· Automobile rallies are not off road events. By definition, they only run on existing roads, and do not cause damage to land or roadless areas.

· Automobile rally vehicles are street legal and emissions compliant, and are muffled and subject to sound testing.

· As part of the permitting process, there is a mitigation process for any damage done to the roads used.

· Automobile rallies are a contemplated recreational use of National Forests.

· Automobile rallies provide a significant positive economic impact ? in the millions of dollars - to their hosting communities.

· In over 30 years of automobile rallies being conducted in National Forests, there has never been a finding of a significant environmental impact as a result of an automobile rally event.

· The passage of 60-80 vehicles over 30-40 miles of road over each of two days is a minimal impact in light of the 1800 miles of Forest maintained and 3600 miles of existing road in the forest. It represents use of less than 2.5% of the maintained roads in the Forest.

Please try to personalize your comments and keep them positive. You may send them by e-mail to Sara Schell with the Monongahela National Forest at [email protected]. You may also send them by regular mail to: Sara Schell, Monongahela National Forest, HC 59 Box 240, Petersburg, WV 26847.

Following is a copy of the scoping letter as published:

DECISION MEMO

Rally West Virginia and Camp Tygart USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region, Monongahela National Forest Pocahontas County, West Virginia

The Monongahela National Forest requests your comments on two requests to use national forest land, Rally West Virginia - John Shirley of Rally Promotions, LLC has requested the use of forest roads for portions of an automobile rally on September 3 and 4, 2004. The event would take place on portions of the Greenbrier and Marlinton Districts. This would be a stage rally, which is a performance form of sports car competition sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association. The proposal includes the temporary closure of some forest roads for safety reasons. Some roads would be closed the night before the event and opened by 8 p.m. the day of the event. Other roads would be closed a few hours during the event. The national forest roads requested for use include: FR55 from State Route 84 to State Route 39, FR24, FR368C, FR135, FR235, FR233, FR227, FR92, and FR14 from Forest Road 423 to State Route 28.

Camp Tygart - The Diocese of Wheeling/Charleston operates Camp Tygart in Huttonsville, West Virginia. They have requested the use of national forest land for hiking and backpacking trips on the Greenbrier Ranger District. The following Forest Roads are requested for hiking and/or shuttle services to trailheads: FR92, FR47, FR49, FR188, FR209, FR27. The following trails are requested for hiking and backpacking: TR360 Stonecoal Trail, TR361 Whitmeadow Ridge, TR362 Crouch Ridge, TR372 Yokum Ridge.

Further information can be obtained from Sara Schell at Monongahela National Forest, HC 59 Box 240, Petersburg, WV 26847; phone; voice 304-257-4488, e-mail: [email protected].

Comments are due within 30 days of the date of this notice.

Fred Way, Greenbrier Ranger District
Rondi Fischer, Marlinton/White Sulphur Ranger District
6/10/1c
 

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I heard a segment on this on West Virginia Public Radio this week. (I live here remember?) The forest service people seemed kind of reserved about giving permission, prefering to wait for the enviromental study. I was however planning on sending a letter into the radio program detailing my involvement in rally and my views on how this will be benificial to our state. Hopefully it will carry some more wieght and get read on the air, since I actually live here. But I will also write a letter to the people you've given contact info for.

Oh, and one side note... Kendall Russel shouldn't oversimplify her explanitions of rally. If you dumb the info down too much, it doesn't give ANY useful information to the general public.

Nick Polimeni
[email protected]
www.odysseyhouseonline.com
www.hrm-usa.com
 

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I would suggest to get in touch with John McArthur for relevant facts ammunition and advice.

A few years ago, while he was still chairman of STPR, a new ranger was assigned to one of the forest areas through which the rally runs. This new ranger attempted to revoke permission to run the event due to his environmental concerns. At some official session at which this issue was taken under discussion, John produced a recent newspaper article that documented the current record number of trout in the area creeks. Having run in that area for more than a decade, STPR was clearly having a POSITIVE effect on the environment!

My contact information for John predates his move to Arizona: [email protected]

Other event organizers who have faced the environmental impact challenge can no doubt help with facts that have been compiled about their events.

Mark Williams
 

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Mark,

Thanks for the comment.
A number of years ago while John and I worked on Cherokee we a lemgthly discussion about this story. I think its important that everybody understand that all events old and new have these same problems of perception over fact.

John
 

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Everyone who wants to see this rally take place should send a message with as much fact (as per earlier post) and as much expression of personal interest in the use of the forest for rally as possible. This is how we can lose road usage.

REREAD ABOVE PARAGRAPH!!
 

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Without being too much chicken little here ("the sky is falling"), this is potentially incredibly serious.

IF this rally is denied use of this National Forest, I see a potential ripple effect for the rest of us who use National Forest roads.

Do we (SCCA & NASA) have bigger guns (lawyers/lobbyists) to counter the other side's arguments (or am I being too paranoid/alarmist here)?

Thoughts?

press on,
 

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>Do we (SCCA & NASA) have bigger guns (lawyers/lobbyists) to
>counter the other side's arguments (or am I being too
>paranoid/alarmist here)?
>
>Thoughts?
>
>press on,

I believe you are being neither paranoid nor alarmist. While in a perfect world, all that matters to the forest bureaucrats is the legitimate recreational use of publicly held land(their actual jobs, by the way), the threat of tens of thousands of tree huggers writing their congressmen is the reality those who would use our land must overcome. We are small in number and naive in the ways of such politics. The battle is an uphill one; one which I fear is unwinable. I can't offer a solution, but it cannot hurt to write the letters wherever necessary. It does not matter who sanctions the rally; we will all be viewed as those crazies who want to tear up the pristine forest with our loud, overpowered, race cars. The forest is not pristine, and our vehicles are not loud or overpowered. Perhaps a letter writing campaign will get the message across, but it's still likely that those in political power will win out.
 

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Has anyone ascertained the exact complaint, or the
problems or damage allegedly caused to the local environment
by rallying?

To answer the complaint, we need to first know what it
is. Item by item. There may very well be legitimate
concerns, in which case we can deal with them as we deal
with all 'problems' encountered when organizing a rally.

We already put tarps under our cars and use other sensible
methods to eliminate environmental damage. I suppose
that and other facts are not generally known outside of the
rally family.

If we gather all this information across the country now and
before other rallies take place, we can be in a position to
act according to the needs.

Education counts. Knowledge is power.

Tony
 

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Would letters from your rally brethern in other parts of the country, particularly the Pacific Northwest, where ecoterrorism rears its ugly head at least once a week, help you out?

:) I'm exaggerating a little about the eco-terrorism, but seriously, would letters from other rallyists in other heavily forested areas be of any help? I'm willing to sit down and work up something, if you think it would help.

:) KT
 

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Ditto in SoCal. BUT, as requested by Tony. We need to know the specifics of the 'beef".
 

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Dear all,

I would like thank everybody who has written in to the Forest Service concerning Rally West Virginia.
We need comments from all over the country. The issues at hand are the educating of these people of the following:

1. Stage rallies are not off road events. By definition, they only run on existing roads, and do not cause damage to land or roadless areas.
2. Stage rally vehicles are street legal and emissions compliant, and are muffled and subject to sound testing.
3. We repair any damage to the roads casued by our events.
4. Stage rallies have been conducted for over 30 years on many USDA National Forest
5. Stage rallies provide a significant positive economic impact ? in the millions of dollars - to their hosting communities.
6. In over 30 years of stage rallies being conducted in National Forests, there has never been a finding of a significant environmental impact as a result of an automobile rally event.
7. The passage of 60-80 vehicles over 30-40 miles of road over each of two days is a minimal impact in light of the 1800 miles of Forest maintained and 3600 miles of existing road in the forest. It represents use of less than 2.5% of the maintained roads in the Forest.

This really all about education and the fact we do this type of activitiy all over the country and have conducted these events for over 30 years.

Thanks
John K. Shirley
 

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OK folks, here's my $.02, wot I got from rubbing some grapevines together.

1. Your debating points that rallies are on roads, with muffled & street-legal cars are a waste of time. The locals are concerned about noise, dust, and safety -- and as anyone here knows perfectly well, rallies are noisy and dusty, and safety is a constant concern.

2. Area residents are fighting a long-term battle with ATV users. The rally is opposed by these grassroots groups because it will set precedent in the ATV controversy, presumably in re the use of National Forest land.

3. The fact that the organizers are working with the Snowshoe ski resort is pouring gas on the fire; the resort (apparently/allegedly) has a bad reputation on local environmental issues. However, Showshoe *really* wants the off-season income, and they have clout with the local politicos -- which may be req'd to keep the whole event from falling apart.


-Isaac
 

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John,

That info takes care of the Forest Service, but I was asking in reference to the folks who wrote in to deny the rally. There have
to be issues there somewhere, at least at the base. I'm sure a high
percentage reply because they have been asked to, much as our writing campaign was requested to counter theirs. Some may have issues they feel are well grounded and demonstrable.

I don't know the issues that folks in WVA see. While I can see educating the FS, answering the issues of the WVA non-rally community in a positive manner can eliminate the issue at the source. First, we need to know what they see as a problem.

This issue exists everywhere, pertinently in TN among ham radio operators. I never got them to identify direct issues, just something 'they heard' somewhere, that they fervently believed was 'true' and did not want to discuss it.

If we can identify the issues specifically, we can address them. It may be that our education program somehow misses one of them, or triggers a negative response. We need the word straight from the communities mouth.

Generalizations don't help much, and I've never heard a specific complaint. It could be just that someone wants to do something other than hike or bike or camp in the woods, and that automatically generates a negative response, with no real examination. Calling either party names surely won't be helpful :) Dialog might not help, but then it just might do some good.

It may be worthwhile to spend the money necessary to make an effective professional presentation for use by all rallies. In addition to all the legal efforts. I don't know.

Does anyone know a specific, rather than general, issue?

Tony
 

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Tony,

There are few specifics. I can tell you this for a fact, because I have been through this experience. I tried to get road use permissions in the Geo-Wash Natl's Forest about 11 years ago, in the Pedlar district. The ranger was pretty informative about the while porcess, in part because his was ex-military with a backgound similar to my SCCA region partner in attempting to organize the event. (And OBTW, a permit application from the DC region was rejected just 2 years back in the same forest.)

The process:
His inside explanation of the situation was that things are pretty politically charged when it comes to forest use in this region: VA and WVa. He did not dare issue a permit wihout going thourgh the comment process. And, sadly, I learned later that he did not really want to deal with the political situation, and made interpretations of my comments in the permit application out of context to make it almost impossible to get a permit. From that lesson, in your comments, IT IS OF VERY HIGH IMPORTANCE TO NOTE THAT THERE ARE NO SUITABLE PRIVATELY OWNED ROADS IN THE REGION THAT CAN BE USED FOR THIS SPORT. (FYI, there are a few mining roads around but not of the length needed, and they are too fast. Don't put that in your comments; I just add it for perspective. I've been looking for years!)

Outside group factors:
This is not far from good ole' Washington DC, and there are LOTS of hike clubs organized in the region. That is one big group opposed to ANYTHING that is noisy or disturbs the nature of 'their' forest.

Since VA has the largest acreage of Nat'l Forest east of the Mississippi, with WVa being close behind, this area is the first target of 'control' by the high profile, national environmental groups in the eastern USA. I learned this about 10 years ago, while conversing with a young lady flying into Charlottesville VA; she was just then moving to C'ville from out west to work for an environmental group establishing itself in the area.

These groups will NOT fight fairly so there is not point in trying to 'understand' them. They simply want what they want, whether it is theirs rightfully or not. I know enough loggers in the region to have heard this over and over. We simply have to fight this with all the numbers and clout that we can. It tends to be a winner takes all thing.....

ATV's:
ATV's have been a big concern and flashpoint of conflict in the Monongahela's land use. I learned this while conversing with forestry personnel about 8 years back. SO emphasing that these are NOT at all like ATV's is extremely important.

Forest use plan:
Let's see if the forest use plan is on-line, to take info from that to justify this forest use.

So, PLEASE WRITE, be objctive but firm, and pull in any politcal clout you can. Remember, some one has thrown up a fence against us in this region of the Nat'l Forest; their fear is that we will breach it and get in. They will fight hard and unfairly to stop this.

Mark B.
Western VA

PS: Jimmy: to your concern over snowballing, I think this is a regional forest issue here. I have seen very diiferent attitudes in other forests.
 

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And we are trying to rally in this country and wondering why we don't have a WRC event or a WRC level driver.

Don't make me laugh.


In England the Army was starting behind the rally cars to do their exercises. All around Europe local forrest services were thanking us for cleaning the brushes, debris etc with our rally cars, they were telling us that rallies were keeping their forrest clean and more accessible for emergency crews in case of a fire. None of the locals minded the noise, I guess we have more sensitive locals here. Wusses.

Here we have the largest wildfires, forrest fires etc and rallies and rallyists are hassled. Wonderful.

Cheers

M.Samli
 
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