Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

September 21, 2013

Off-road trails eyed for state wildlife site

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is proposing to establish two off-road vehicle trails on the Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area in Washington County.

The agency wants to know what the public thinks about this idea. Comments may be sent no later than Oct. 4 to jperdue@dnr.state.md.us.

By going to http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/orv_Projects.asp, maps of the proposed trails may be seen.

A public meeting was conducted on Sept. 4 at New Germany State Park,  where the two Washington County trails were lumped in with a proposed Garrett County trail. Unfortunately for Washington County residents, that meeting was two counties and more than an hour away.

Ray Givens, legislative representative for the five-county Western Maryland Sportsmen’s Coalition, complained. Now a second meeting will take place, this one on Wednesday, 7 p.m. at the Town Hall in Hancock, 126 West High St.

Givens, a Hancock resident, said the coalition plans to formally oppose the trails on the WMA.

Among his concerns is the water quality of Sideling Hill Creek, a trout stream, and how that would be affected by sediment flowing downhill from ORV trails.

In fact, DNR states on its website, “The overriding goal of this area is to provide forest wildlife habitat and protection for water quality in Sideling Hill Creek.”

The agency closed an ORV trail in Garrett County because of impact upon Poplar Lick and the trout there.

Jerry Zembower, president of the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Foundation, said this week that he protests ORV trails on any WMA.

“If the state wants to make trails they should be in state parks,” Zembower said. “Hunting is our recreation and these lands were acquired for hunters.”

In fact, Ed Golden, a retired DNR wildlife biologist now living in Wyoming, said he remembers WMAs originally being called public hunting areas.

Golden said the name change came about under the wildlife leadership of Don McLaughlin a few decades back.

Zembower is concerned that if ORV trails are part of the Sideling Hill WMA that they could be put on other WMAs throughout the state.

The Wildlife & Heritage Service oversees the management of 47 wildlife management areas, ranging in size from fewer than 20 acres to more than 29,000 acres.

The WMA system encompasses a total of 111,000 acres, with WMAs located in 18 of Maryland's 23 counties.

The Sideling Hill WMA has 3,100 acres in two parcels.

Zembower said the same thing that happened on the now-closed ORV trail on the Green Ridge State Forest will happen at Sideling Hill.

“The trails will get rough or people will want to try something new and cut through the woods on ORVs,” Zembower said. He anticipates as well confrontations between ORV users and hunters.

“If you are in a tree and here comes an all-terrain vehicle, your hunt is done,” Zembower said. “It’s happening in the Frederick Watershed all the time.”

Although the state website proposes closing the trail in Garrett County during hunting seasons, no wording to that effect is included for the Sideling Hill WMA.

Other site management goals for Sideling Hill WMA, as listed on the website, are:

• This area is managed to provide habitat for game and non-game wildlife species including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, gray and fox squirrels, ruffed grouse, and songbirds.  

• Agricultural fields and small herbaceous wildlife openings are planted and maintained to provide feeding and brood rearing habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Off-road vehicle use is not mentioned as a goal.

The Nature Conservancy owns 700 to 800 acres in the Sideling Hill Creek floodplain, according to spokeswoman Donnelle Keech.

Keech said TNC had a representative in the DNR’s stakeholder group that looked at public locations for trails.

“We think it is important for people to get outside, no matter the way they do it, including riding bikes or ATVs,” Keech said. “But, we believe, too, that they should be good stewards and follow any rules that have been established to prevent environmental impacts.”

An email I sent to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service asking if DNR is at risk of losing any Pittman-Robertson funds if trails are allowed on the WMA was not answered.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

1
Text Only
Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
  • No Bambi for you, Mrs. Doe

    Some people want so badly for deer birth control to work that they actually think it will, even on wild populations.
    I wish I had a couple bridges to sell.
    A week ago on the Outdoors page we ran the deer there do what deer  everywhere do. They eat the easiest food available such as gardens and ornamental plantings. They walk in front of moving cars. They give ticks and  parasites a place to live.

    April 19, 2014

  • Black bear biologist explains new hunt

    The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service has abandoned the bear harvest quota system in use for 10 hunting seasons and has set the next two hunts at four days apiece.

    April 5, 2014

  • MIKE SAWYERS South Branch of Potomac River best place in W.Va. for trophy rainbows

    I always enjoy the annual roundup supplied by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources that reveals where all the trophy fish were caught.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • MIKE SAWYERS Mettiki will once again produce trout

    Brian Richardson is confident that the Maryland Fisheries Service will, little by little and year by year, get to the point where full production is restored to the state’s trout hatchery system, meaning that fish will no longer have to be purchased from private sources.

    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The answer my friend ...

    Recently, the Times-News published
    a photograph of sea gulls that had
    landed on the parking lot at Braddock
    Square Shopping
    Center in LaVale
    My first thought
    was, “If those sea
    gulls landed in the
    Gunpowder River or
    Big Hunting Creek
    on their way here
    from the ocean I
    hope they didn’t have
    felt soles on their
    feet, otherwise they
    will spread rock snot
    to our trout streams
    in Allegany and Garrett counties.”

    March 15, 2014

  • Gobbler stuff can get crazy

    Tough, old bird
    The third gobbler I killed was in 1990 while hunting on Pond Hill near McCoole. Relatively early in the morning I sent out a couple yelp calls. Immediately, 75-100 yards away, what sounded like three gobblers got into a fight.

    March 8, 2014

  • MIKE SAWYERS Almost Maryland welcomes you back

    If you are a hunter in Almost Maryland, circle Thursday on your calendar so you don’t forget to attend the 7 p.m. hearing at Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg that deals with proposed hunting regulations for the next two years.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • MIKE SAWYERS Gobbler radar activated

    With only 54 days until it opens, the Maryland spring gobbler season is officially on the radar.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • MIKE SAWYERS Region A buck, doe changes possible

    The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association, the Quality Deer Management Association and the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen have hashed out a new deer hunting concept for Region A, which includes Garrett, Allegany and the western portion of Washington counties.

    February 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • MIKE SAWYERS Meshach Browning would say ‘Just do it’

    I wonder if it is possible to attach a
    GPS unit to legislation that has been
    introduced at the Maryland General
    Assembly.

    February 1, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads