Sunday, November 7, 2004

New Trail News

Almost every day for weeks now I have been occupied with various trails issues. I have had many telephone conversations, and much email correspondence, with employees of Tahoe National Forest (TNF), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Placer County, PG&E, and the California Department of Forestry (CDF).

A few significant changes have occurred in trails issues recently outlined to this email list.

1. Thanks to Matt Bailey and Jim Johnson, Placer County went to PG&E and insisted that the new gate on the Smarts Crossing Road be removed. Well--not quite removed--PG&E agreed to "open" the gate. I am not aware that PG&E has actually done so, yet.

2. The two old roads converging into one road leading to BLM lands at The Bluffs, south of Garrett Road near Gold Run, remain blocked. A narrow strip of private property separates (public) Garrett Road with its 60-foot-wide easement from the BLM lands. Ron Gould obtained a copy of the parcel map, and we have had some difficulty ascertaining the exact line of the BLM boundary. At first the BLM offered to put a BLM surveyor on the problem, then they decided not to do so. The BLM says it will make no effort to protect the public's rights of access to The Bluffs on these two old roads. A possibility exists of creating a new road, entirely on BLM land. The Bluffs is the trailhead for the famed Paleobotanist Trail, which leads in turn to the Canyon Creek Trail.

3. The damage to the Big Granite Trail, up in the Loch Leven Lakes/Four Horse Flat area, was a result of either CHY logging operations, or SPI logging operations, or both, or even neither, inasmuch as SPI has an easement across CHY lands near where the damage occurred, and may be simply exercising that easement, and constructing a road. We know CHY's Timber Harvest Plan code number and also, the "10% exemption" harvest document's code number, filed by SPI. CDF will send me the two documents, with a bill. The area is covered by snow now.

4. An archeologist named John Betts contacted me, interested in the Big Granite Trail issue. We had a long conversation about CDF and old trails. He is quite familiar with CDF's process of evaluating Timber Harvest Plans. John said that it is vital that those of us who care about old trails make our views known to CDF, especially when some particular THP threatens a trail. He cited our meager success at Lost Camp as an example of what we should do (there, we managed to change a THP slightly to protect the China Trail). John's basic message is that CDF, and the "Registered Professional Forests" (RPFs) who prepare THPs, often have no idea these trails even exist. If we, The Public, inform them about the old trails, then, and only then, something can be done to protect them.

5. Rich Johnson of TNF says that although TNF would like to acquire much private land up by the Big Granite Trail, that looks to be something which might maybe possibly happen in the distant future. Funds for such acquisitions have been coming from the Land & Water Conservation Act monies, which the Federal government receives from taxes on offshore oil wells, and disburses for environmental uses of various types. We need to convince our elected representatives, such as Feinstein, Boxer, and Doolittle, that TNF needs much more money, to make land acquisitions, not just around the Big Granite Trail, but at Lost Camp, Sawtooth Ridge, Snow Mountain, Wildcat Point, the Rawhide Mine, Green Valley, etc.

6. How could so many squatters' camps accumulate tons of garbage right next to one of the most popular trails in TNF, the Euchre Bar Trail? How could this same trail have essentially no water bars, to protect it from erosion? Because TNF has no rangers to patrol this trail or scarcely any other trail, and TNF has no trail crews to maintain this or scarcely any other trail. The reason there are no rangers and no trail crews is that there is no budget for such employees. There is money, however, for OHV trails. Very much of what TNF does for trails nowadays is done for OHV users. The solution, according to one TNF source, is to lobby Congress to more fully fund our National Forests.

I myself am a little dubious about this funding issue. I have found, if one complains to the California Highway Patrol about speeding big rig trucks on Highway 80, that the reason the CHP cannot slow down the trucks is that they "do not have the budget" to do so.

7. So far as OHV use on TNF lands generally, TNF has started a formal study. TNF is mapping all OHV trails, official and unofficial, and once they are mapped, TNF will issue an Interim Order confining OHV travel to these existing routes. A series of hearings (some of which are beginning very soon, in Nevada City and Truckee), and a painstaking environmental study, will lead to a Preliminary Decision, which in turn will be followed by a Final Decision, in 2007. It is to be expected that OHV users will make their views and wishes known. We can too. Send an email containing your email and regular postal mailing address to TNF's


and ask to be added to the OHV Study electronic database.

For my part I want TNF to reduce the areas open to OHVs. I want foot trails, not motorcycle trails. In particular I want our historic trails protected from further damage, and in many cases, restored, since not a few of these old trails have been obliterated by logging. I want wild areas to remain wild, and partially wild areas to become more wild. To do this I recommend some road closures. This goes somewhat beyond the strict confines of OHV use, since a road closure includes any kind of jeep or SUV or automobile use. For instance, I want the Sawtooth Ridge road closed from about Helester Point to its southwest end. I want the road out to Big Valley Bluff from Forest Road 19 closed about a quarter-mile or so north of the Bluff. I want the last half-mile of the Wildcat Point road closed. I want the Sugar Pine Point road closed well north of the Point, perhaps at Pelham Flat. I want the Lost Camp road closed just beyond Lost Camp, near the head of the China Trail.

The longer closures, as at Sawtooth Ridge, might occur in stages.

And I want the trail across Duncan Canyon closed to all OHVs.

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