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please help preserve our riding privileges at Patuxent Research Refuge (North Tract) in Laurel

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  • Barbara Sollner-Webb
    Many of us enjoy riding at North Tract in Laurel. It is especially nice when the ground is too wet to ride on other local trails, for the horse s hooves do
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 20, 2010
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      Many of us enjoy riding at "North Tract" in Laurel. It is especially nice when the ground is too wet to ride on other local trails, for the horse's hooves do not harm the sturdy dirt roads at this Refuge.
      As you may know, North Tract is part of the Patuxent Research Refuge which is administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. And the US Fish & Wildlife Service generally does not allow riding on their lands. Furthermore, the Fish and Wildlife Service is currently developing a "Comprehensive Conservation Plan" (CCP) for the Patuxent Research Refuge, which they describe as "a 15-year plan designed to provide strategic management direction that best achieves the Refuge’s purposes, attains the vision and goals developed for the Refuge, contributes to the National Wildlife Refuge System mission, addresses key challenges, issues and relevant mandates, and is consistent with sound principles of fish and wildlife management".
      Not surprisingly, there are some insiders who would like to see horse riding eliminated from North Tract.
      But others insiders are more broad minded, and advised that it would be wise for us riders to provide input -- en masse -- to try to retain our riding privilege.
      This coming week, they are having public scoping meetings, for the public to provide input. They are this coming Monday, February 22nd, from 2-4 PM and 6:30-8:30 PM in Laurel, MD and Tuesday, February 23rd, from 1-3 PM in
      Annapolis. It is best to come with your comments briefly written out, so they have it for their files. Alternatively you can e-mail comments to Brad Knudsen, Patuxent Research Refuge Manager at < northeastplanning@... >. [They say to please put "Patuxent" in the email subject line.]
      The meeting in Laurel is not a North Tract where we ride, but nearby at the Patuxent Research Refuge Visitor Center (in their South Tract) at 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708 (note: GoogleMaps calls it 10901 Scarlet Tanager Ct., Laurel, MD). Directions: coming from I-95 or US 1, head east on Rt 198 as if you were going to North Tract, but instead turn right (south) on Rt 197 at the Home Depot; in 4 miles (which is 1.3 miles after B/W Pkwy) turn right (south) at Powder Mill Rd, in 0.8 miies turn left (east) at Visitor's Center Entrance Road and go 1.4 miles to the Visitor's Center.
      The meeting in Annapolis is at Maryland Department of Natural Resources, C-1 Conference Room, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401
      (




      The meeting format is an informal Open House with a brief presentation by Refuge staff. Also welcome are comments received in writing to Brad Knudsen, Patuxent Research Refuge Manager at the address provided below; or, electronically via e-mail addressed to northeastplanning@.... Please put "Patuxent" in the email subject line.

      to recognize that having people appreciate their refuge could be a helpful thing a


      After a year of preplanning, Refuge staff are initiating the next stage of the planning process by hosting public scoping meetings. Public scoping meetings are open to everyone and provide an opportunity for the public to speak directly with Refuge staff and comment on what they see as the issues, concerns, and challenges for the Refuge over the next 15 years. The meeting format is an informal Open House with a brief presentation by Refuge staff. Also welcome are comments received in writing to Brad Knudsen, Patuxent Research Refuge Manager at the address provided below; or, electronically via e-mail addressed to northeastplanning@.... Please put "Patuxent" in the email subject line.

      The Refuge planning team will review all the information, data, and comments gathered during public scoping before developing a Draft CCP and environmental assessment. The draft plan will be distributed for public review and comment.

      Public scoping meetings are scheduled for:

      Monday, February 22nd
      Laurel, MD

      2-4 PM and 6:30-8:30 PM
      (Refuge presentations at 2:15PM and 6:45 PM)

      Patuxent Research Refuge
      National Wildlife Visitor Center
      10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708


      http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/patuxent/ccphome.html
    • Jacki Edens
      Barbara, Thank you for keeping us informed about this important issue. Do you have any idea as to the specifics of the objections? It would be great if we
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 20, 2010
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        Barbara,
        Thank you for keeping us informed about this important issue. Do you have
        any idea as to the specifics of the objections? It would be great if we
        knew ahead of time what these are so we can be prepared to address these in
        person or in writing. If we don't know now, but anyone learns what the
        specifics are at the upcoming meetings, perhaps they could post these as
        soon as possible so those who attend the later meetings can be prepared.
        As for me I will attend the Monday evening meeting. It would be a
        tremendous loss to lose access to this site.
        Jacki Edens
      • Barbara Sollner-Webb
        Please try to provide your input on the future of North Tract (and the rest of the Patuxent Research Refuge) -- it is the lovely site in eastern Laurel where
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 22, 2010
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             Please try to provide your input on the future of North Tract (and the rest of the Patuxent Research Refuge) -- it is the lovely site in eastern Laurel where it is wonderful to ride especially when the ground is wet.  [Unlike most riding venues, the sturdy gravel/dirt roads at this Refuge are not harmed by the horse's hooves, even when the ground is soaked.] 
           
             As noted in the previous mailing and at the TROT meeting, the US Fish & Wildlife Service that administers this refuge is conducting a review about future uses of this site -- which evidently includes whether horse riding will continue to be permitted.  The Fish and Wildlife Service generally does not allow riding on their lands, and some insiders would like to see horse riding eliminated from North Tract. 

             You can provide input in this current review includes by speaking up at one of their public meetings (listed below) and/or e-mailing your comments to Brad Knudsen, Patuxent Research Refuge Manager at < northeastplanning@... >, preferable with "Patuxent" in the email subject line.

            Broad minded insiders have advised that it could be wise for us riders to provide input -- en masse -- to try to retain our riding privilege.  

            The arguments I have heard against allowing horses are:
                con-1:  Riding is generally not allowed on Fish and Wildlife Service lands
                           a:   So, it could be simpler to make all their lands conform.
                           b:   Also, allowing riding here could set a precedent for folks wanting riding at other Fish and Wildlife Service lands (which they deem as bad).
                con-2:  Horses poop.  
                           a:  Evidently some riders do not clean up their horses poop in the parking lot and on the trails, and some hikers report that they find this poop distasteful.
                           b:  They argue that the poop our horses leave at the refuge contains troubling things, especially seeds for invasive plants.  This "invasives" argument is being used to encompass even seeds for hay grasses, as many are "non-native".
                con-3:  Riders sometimes are late in returning (for their inordinately early 4 PM closing time), forcing staff to stay overtime.  
                con-4:  Riders sometimes stray off the designated hardpack gravel roads, damaging the wet ground.

            I hope to argue that continuing to permit riding can also have substantial positive benefits, including:
                pro-1:  Riding permission on North Tract was grandfathered in, when Fish & Wildlife Service took over these lands from Fort Meade; it seems this should not be eliminated unless there is a very strong reason.  And I submit that riding causes only negligible problems (see pro-2 below), while it can have many strongly positive effects (including those listed in pro-3 through pro-5, below).  
                pro-2:  The above-listed con items seem not compelling.   Con-1 can be answered by viewing such diversity as a positive, especially since refuges near to major to urban areas (and with already established hard-pack horse trails) can serve additional functions over those in rural areas.  Items con-2a, con-3, and con-4 could be addressed by better signage/information transfer, that I and other volunteers from TROT would be pleased to get involved with improving.   And for argument con-2b, please see < http://www.californiastatehorsemen.com/enviro/07_AERC_Final_Rpt.pdf > for a study documenting that horse refuse is not a substantial factor in the spread of invasives.
                pro-3:  Having riding as a permitted use encourages many local residents to experience and enjoy this lovely, tranquil environmental oasis.  Encouraging the public enjoy their refuges is one of the Fish and Wildlife Service's goals. 
                pro-4:  Having horse riders enjoy North Tract makes these environmentalists into strong advocates for the Patuxent Research Refuge.  
                          a-   For instance, we riders would love to advocate for increased funding, to pay for a Patuxent Research Refuge staff member's salary, if that is needed to re-institute longer hours in which the refuge is open to the working public.  Many of us would especially appreciate it again remaining open on weekends until sunset, rather than closing at 4 PM.  Note that in the summer, one can enjoy seeing much more wildlife near sunset (when the Refuge is now closed) than at midday (when the Refuge is open, but people and wildlife would bake, if out in the mid-summer sun).
                          b-  When future budgetary constraints may induce an effort to shut down/scale back/sell off Refuge lands, we advocates will stand up to fight that the Refuge remains.   An excellent example of this was during a major effort by some legislators several years ago to sell off WSSC to a private for-profit company:  at the critical public hearings, by far the most eloquent and outspoken advocates for retaining WSSC in public hands were the horse riders who have been permitted to enjoy WSSC's reservoir lands.  These riders clearly appreciated the value of WSSC's reservoir lands and fought to have them and WSSC preserved; indeed, many insiders credited this pubic outcry as key to retaining WSSC and its reservoir buffer lands in pubic hands.
                pro-5:  These long-established trails at North Tract are especially wonderful as they are hard pack gravel and are not damaged in wet weather, when riding on other area trails could cause hoof marks and erosion.  Thus, making these trails available helps to allow the public to enjoy the great outdoors and get exercise, while helping to preserve ridign venues with less durable trail construction. 

                                 ------------------------
             
            The meetings today, Monday, February 22nd, are from 2-4 PM and 6:30-8:30 PM in Laurel, MD.  It is not a North Tract where we ride, but nearby at the Patuxent Research Refuge Visitor Center (in their South Tract) at 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708 (note:  GoogleMaps calls it 10901 Scarlet Tanager Ct., Laurel, MD).   Directions:  coming from I-95 or US 1, head east on Rt 198 as if you were going to North Tract, but instead turn right (south) on Rt 197 at the Home Depot; in 4 miles (which is 1.3 miles after B/W Pkwy) turn right (south) at Powder Mill Rd, in 0.8 miies turn left (east) at Visitor's Center Entrance Road and go 1.4 miles to the Visitor's Center.  The meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 23rd, is from 1-3 PM in Annapolis,  at Maryland Department of Natural Resources, C-1 Conference Room, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401. 
             It is best to come with your comments briefly written out, so they have it for their files.  Please also send copies of your testimony notes to our TROT president, Ron MacNab (rmacnab@...), and/or to me (bsw@...), in case a package of these comments may be helpful later.
             Hope to see you tonight!  

          yours,  Barbara

          p.s.  you can find more info on this at   http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/patuxent/ccphome.html
          p.p.s.  we can thank Ron MacNab for finding that valuable study on horse manure and invasive seeds.  




          From: svort@...

          Subject: Re: [TROT-Members] please help preserve our riding privileges at Patuxent Research Refuge (North Tract) in Laurel

          Date: February 20, 2010 9:51:40 PM EST


          Barbara,
          Thank you for keeping us informed about this important issue.  Do you have any idea as to the specifics of the objections?  It would be great if we knew ahead of time what these are so we can be prepared to address these in person or in writing.  If we don't know now, but anyone learns what the specifics are at the upcoming meetings, perhaps they  could post these as soon as possible so those who attend the later meetings can be prepared.  
          As for me I will attend the Monday evening meeting.  It would be a tremendous loss to lose access to this site.
          Jacki Edens 


          From: bsw@...

          Subject: [TROT-Members] please help preserve our riding privileges at Patuxent Research Refuge (North Tract) in Laurel

          Date: February 20, 2010 3:43:56 PM EST


            Many of us enjoy riding at "North Tract" in Laurel.  It is especially nice when the ground is too wet to ride on other local trails, for the horse's hooves do not harm the sturdy dirt roads at this Refuge. 
            As you may know, North Tract is part of the Patuxent Research Refuge which is administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.  And the US Fish & Wildlife Service generally does not allow riding on their lands.  Furthermore, the Fish and Wildlife Service is currently developing a "Comprehensive Conservation Plan" (CCP) for the Patuxent Research Refuge, which they describe as "a 15-year plan designed to provide strategic management direction that best achieves the Refuge’s purposes, attains the vision and goals developed for the Refuge, contributes to the National Wildlife Refuge System mission, addresses key challenges, issues and relevant mandates, and is consistent with sound principles of fish and wildlife management".
            Not surprisingly, there are some insiders who would like to see horse riding eliminated from North Tract. 
            But others insiders are more broad minded, and advised that it would be wise for us riders to provide input -- en masse -- to try to retain our riding privilege.  
            This coming week, they are having public scoping meetings, for the public to provide input.   They are this coming Monday, February 22nd, from 2-4 PM and 6:30-8:30 PM in Laurel, MD and Tuesday, February 23rd, from 1-3 PM in Annapolis.  It is best to come with your comments briefly written out, so they have it for their files.  Alternatively you can e-mail comments to Brad Knudsen, Patuxent Research Refuge Manager at < northeastplanning@... >.  [They say to please put "Patuxent" in the email subject line.]
            The meeting in Laurel is not a North Tract where we ride, but nearby at the Patuxent Research Refuge Visitor Center (in their South Tract) at 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708 (note:  GoogleMaps calls it 10901 Scarlet Tanager Ct., Laurel, MD).   Directions:  coming from I-95 or US 1, head east on Rt 198 as if you were going to North Tract, but instead turn right (south) on Rt 197 at the Home Depot; in 4 miles (which is 1.3 miles after B/W Pkwy) turn right (south) at Powder Mill Rd, in 0.8 miies turn left (east) at Visitor's Center Entrance Road and go 1.4 miles to the Visitor's Center.
            The meeting in Annapolis is at Maryland Department of Natural Resources, C-1 Conference Room, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401
            Hope to see you there!  
            Please send copies of your testimony notes to our TROT president, Ron MacNab (rmacnab@...), and/or to me (bsw@...), in case a package of these comments may be helpful later.
          yours,  Barbara
          p.s.  you can find more info on this at   http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/patuxent/ccphome.html



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