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Forest Service delays shutdown of ATV trails

By Arkansas Online Press Services

This article was published April 9, 2010 at 12:09 p.m.

— The National Forest Service has decided to put off a plan that would have shut down several miles of off-road vehicle trails in the Ouachita National Forest.

Owners of tourism-dependent businesses in the Mena area of western Arkansas and others interested in keeping the trails open had appealed the Forest Service decision to adopt the plan.

The proposal, announced in January, would have severely restricted off-road vehicle access in the Wolf Pen Gap Trail System by closing 31 miles of loop trails, except on weekends and holidays between May 15 and Sept. 15.

According to a news release Friday from the office of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., the Forest Service said it plans to review its decision to put the plan into effect.

“There is plenty of room for compromise on other aspects of the plan and I will continue to urge the Forest Service to work with all users of the Ouachita to address these issues,” said Lincoln.

"I believe western Arkansas’s tourism and economic development would be hit particularly hard if the Forest Service were to move ahead with its plan," Sen. Mark Pryor said. "Individuals and business owners shared their concerns with me with one very loud, clear voice."

The Ouachita National Forest in west Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma covers 1.8 million acres.

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

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