CALL TO ACTION

The Susquehanna Chapter TU, Officers and Board of Directors wish to inform our membership about a threat to the wilderness character and wild brook trout fisheries of the beautiful Tiadaghton State Forest in northwest corner of Lycoming County.  Last year, the PA DCNR removed its long-standing policy moratorium on new ATV trails on State Forest Lands, and the State Legislature passed an amendment to the PA Fiscal Code which mandated that the DCNR create a large ATV trail network in northcentral Pennsylvania proposed by the Central Mountains ATV Association, known as the “Northcentral Pennsylvania ATV Initiative.”  The Fiscal Code order included the establishment of an initial “Regional ATV Pilot Program” in Elk, Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehannock, and Tioga State Forests during which the environmental impact, problem issues, and public comment would be collected and evaluated over a three year period. By April 2024, the DCNR is then mandated to create the entire ATV trail network.

As a conservation organization, we are concerned about the sedimentation, erosion, and negative impacts that this ATV initiative can have on the wild trout streams, as well as on the quiet enjoyment of the public and cabin owners in this very special gem of our state forest lands.

We have learned that construction is now commencing on an ATV connector route near PA 44 (Coudersport Pike) from Potter County to the Haneyville ATV trail loop in the Tiadaghton State Forest located in Lycoming County to be opened next year that was not designated by the Fiscal Code amendment to be part of the initial pilot program. This route would reportedly extend onto the Slate Run and Manor Fork Roads and into the watersheds to the south including Little Slate Run, Naval Run, Trout Run, Miller Run Natural Area, and Browns Run.

We urge all of our members and their friends to consider writing our local legislators and the Governor’s office, with copies to our County Commissioners to make them aware of this issue and express displeasure with the non-transparent manner in which this ATV network mandate was created. In particular, please ask that the opening of connector trail in the Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County not be considered until the experimental three year pilot program is completed in the adjoining counties and the environmental impacts and problem issues have been evaluated and appropriate public input sought and addressed.

Here are a number of important points that could be used in letters on this issue:

• Opening the ATV connector route to Haneyville is premature and should not have been considered until public comment and the evaluation of the three year experimental pilot program in Tioga, Potter and Clinton Counties is completed.
• The issue is not about liking or not liking ATVs, nor against ATVs as useful vehicles on private property or driven legally on designated trails. The issue is the fact that the Fiscal Code amendment passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor inhibits the PA DCNR from doing its constitutional responsibility to effectively protect the natural resources of our Commonwealth and with appropriate transparency and public input.
• About three miles of the forestry road along Trout Run, tributary to Pine Creek at Cammal, is currently gated and closed to motorized vehicles. The ATV route reportedly planned to be opened next spring in the Tiadaghton State Forest would open this road, potentially impacting a Class A wild brook trout stream with increased erosion, sedimentation and fishing pressure. 
• Opening the old Lebo Vista Road from lower Trout Run Road up to the Lebo Vista as part of the Tiadaghton connector route is ill-advised. It has been closed to vehicular traffic for many years due to its steep, winding, narrow, and dangerous condition. The condition, inaccessibility, and subsequent long response time for emergency first responders has apparently not been considered.
• ATV routes should not be created everywhere just because an ATV association wishes it so. Previous studies conducted by the PA DCNR (eg. “Pine Creek Valley Early Action Recommendations,” Fermata, 2005) have identified low-impact, non-motorized recreation as the best fit for this very special scenic area.
• Pine Creek Valley and its tributary watersheds are now used by large numbers of people who cherish the quiet solitude for hiking, fishing, nature walks, non-motorized biking and sight-seeing.
• The introduction of intrusive, dusty, and noisy motorized ATV traffic onto the Slate Run and Manor Fork Roads and other planned routes in the Tiadaghton State Forest would be detrimental to and seriously degrade the low impact recreational experience of its nationally-acclaimed trout streams and the Black Forest Trail hiking network.
• Many people familiar with this area do not believe that the expected economic impact of the new ATV initiative would be positive. There is already heavy use by campers, fishermen, hikers, and bicyclers who would likely be deterred by the noise and dust from intensive ATV traffic.  There are camps that are owned or rented by people who wish to preserve the solitude and low impact recreational opportunities that this section of the Tiadaghton State Forest already provides.
• The costs to the DCNR to maintain and effectively patrol the mandated ATV trail network with appropriate regulations will require a redirection of resources in a time of ongoing challenges to properly fund and manage its existing recreational areas, facilities and trails.

Please feel free to draw from the comments outlined above and others you chose to make in your own words. Many letters from individual citizens often have more impact than letters from one organization. We suggest letters be sent to Governor Tom Wolf and your local legislative representatives and senator with copies to the Lycoming County commissioners.

Lycoming County’s elected officials are:
Rep. Joe Hamm, jhamm@pahousegop.com
Rep. Jeff Wheeland, jwheeland@pahousegop.com
Senator Gene Yaw, gyaw@pasen.gov
Lycoming County Commissioners: Tony Mussare, tmussare@lyco.org ; Scott Metzger, smetzger@lyco.org; and Rick Mirabito, rmirabito@lyco.org.
If you are not a resident of Lycoming County, you can find your legislator at
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/ .

The Director of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation is Derek Eberly, deeberly@pa.gov. Please ask him to convey your message to Governor Tom Wolf.
Thank you very much for your care and concern for helping to preserve our wild cold water resources for all of the people to cherish and enjoy.

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