The Community Collaborative hands comments to the Forest Service
Last Thursday, October 27, 2016, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Community Collaborative group (Collaborative) finalized their consensus comments on the SGMNM Management Plan. The process was helped immensely by the extension of the public comment period through to today, November 1st.
The Collaborative took a long, hard look at the draft Management Plan, and felt that it fell short of accomplishing everything desired by the community, and mandated by the Presidential Proclamation. I served on the Monument and Transportation Plan Coordinating Committee, tasked with developing comments for the entire Collaborative to review and approve. We broke down the management plan, and assigned sections to those with expertise and interest in the section topics. I helped write the Sustainable Recreation section with the Sierra Club representative, while the Heritage Resources section was initially drafted by an archaeologist. Over the course of two months, numerous conference calls, and four Collaborative meetings, the comments were developed and modified into a document that all members could support.
The Collaborative’s strength comes from the diversity of its membership. When the Collaborative was convened, effort was made to bring in diverse and sometimes opposing viewpoints, including some who did not initially support the Monument. Over the course of nearly two years, Collaborative members have become much more aware of and sensitive to the issues and viewpoints of other members. It’s been a slow process of building trust, and coming up with compromises that support the greater vision for the Monument. The member list is available on the National Forest Foundation’s SGM Community Collaborative page, along with all our meeting records and documents.
The Collaborative code of conduct prohibits any Collaborative member from submitting individual or organization comments that are contradictory to those of the Collaborative. CORBA’s comments supplement the Collaborative comments, addressing a few issues not addressed by the Collaborative. Both are posted here for review.
Nothing in the Management plan directly affects mountain bike access to existing trails. Much of the draft plan and the Collaborative comments concern social and environmental justice, transportation, and heavily impacted areas of the Monument.
The Forest Service expects to release a Final Management Plan next spring, as they read through and respond to all the public comments received. That will be followed by an objection period, then a final Record of Decision. The Presidential Proclamation mandates the completion of the plan by October 10, 2017, the third anniversary of the establishment of the Monument.
Kevin from SCV Trail Users speaks to support the Castaic plan.
Both these plans include Bike Skills Parks, as proposed by CORBA to the County in 2011. It’s been a long process with much input from local residents, trail users, mountain bikers and environmental and social justice organizations. With these bike skills parks appearing on their respective master plans, which will be incorporated into the County General Plan, we have confirmed a future Los Angeles that will include bike skills parks.
The Puente Hills plan includes two bike skills area, one in Phase One, and a second in Phase two. The Castaic plan identifies three potential bike skills park sites. The plans do not include specific bike park designs. These designs will take some time, and much community involvement. The onus will be on us, the mountain biking community, to follow through and remain engaged in the design process, and ultimately, to help raise funds and build these facilities.
These planning documents are intended to guide long-term development over multiple decades, as funding and other opportunities become available. Fully realized, they will provide many miles of multi-use trails, trailhead staging areas, and other amenities. The Puente Hills plan includes multiple recreational amenities, including public performance spaces, a zip line, bike skills park, dog park, and balances that with habitat restoration and native landscaping. There is something for everyone.
Four of us spoke in favor of the Castaic plan, including CORBA, the SoCal High School Cycling League and SCV Trail Users, while one local resident expressed concerns that a proposed trail in the plan traverses her property. Supvervisor Antonovich asked the park planning staff how the plan addresses and protects private property rights and received assurances that easements or property acquisitions will only take place from willing sellers.
Over 30 people came to speak on the Puente Hills plan, rallied by our friends at Bike SGV, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and CORBA. It was obvious to the County that there is tremendous community support for the plan, so it wasn’t necessary for all 30 to speak. Wes Reutman from Bike SGV, spoke on behalf of the group. Support also came from the Wilderness Society and the Trust for Public Land.
We want to express our sincere thanks to both the County Department of Parks and Recreation, and the County Supervisors for supporting the development of these plans. We also extend our appreciation to Alta Planning for their great work on engaging the Santa Clarita Valley community in the development of the Castaic Plan, and Withers & Sandgren Landscape Architecture firm who were enlisted as the prime consultant on the Puente Hills plan. Both the Castaic and Puente Hills planning processes typified the type of extensive community outreach and engagement that are necessary to develop viable community-driven plans that reflect the desires and address the concerns of the community and trail and park users.
Of special note is the long-standing support for trails and open spaces exhibited by Supervisor Antonovich, who will term out at the end of this year. His legacy includes the Santa Susana Trails Master Plan, and the Castaic Multiuse Trail Master Plan. As an equestrian and a champion of multi-use trails, Supervisor Antonovich has arguable had a greater impact on trails in Los Angeles County than any other single elected official in the area. In fact, 30 years ago, I served as assistant race director of the Olive View Challenge, a running, cycling, mountain biking and BMX event raising funds for Olive View hospital. Supervisor Antonovich was an ardent supporter of our nacent mountain biking race then (the first ever sanctioned mountain bike race on County and National Forest lands). He’s been a champion of trails since, and throughout his career in County government.
While a great step forward, there is still a lot of work to be done before we’ll be shaping dirt into pump tracks, jumps, and skills features at either Castaic or Puente Hills. We hope to begin the design phase for Castaic as early as next year. Puente Hills needs a few more years for the landfill to settle, and phase one will likely begin in late 2017 through 2019.
In March 2011, we reported on the Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon. A mega-mansion developer, Mohamed Hadid, had purchased a parcel of land traversed by the Hastain Trail in 2002. In 2011, he began development of the site, putting up a fence to block the trail without any public notice.
Immediately, local hiker Ellen Scott formed the Friends of Hastain Trail. They fought the developer in court, with the backing of the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority. The previous owner had never prohibited public entry to the land via the Hastain Trail for at least five years prior to 1972. Witnesses testified hiking the trail as far back as 1965. Hadid did not close the trail for nearly ten years that he owned it.
The battle for the trail is not over. Though Hadid has offered to provide an alternative route through his property, the route he proposes doesn’t have the views afforded by the existing trail, and is not an equitable replacement.
Efforts are now underway to appeal the decision to a higher court, which the MRCA and CORBA are supporting. Stay tuned for updates.
Update, October 21, 2016: We just learned that the Supreme Court has declined to take on the case. This means a loss for trail users and a win for the mega-mansion developer, who will now get to close the historic trail to build five mega-mansions.
The Castaic Area Multiuse Trail Master Plan has been developed over the past eighteen months, as concerns over trails impacted by housing developments in the Castaic Area was growing. The Tapia Canyon area, future home to a 276 home residential development, has a network of user-created trails on private property that have served as a mountain biking destination for the local community for many years.
The developer reached out to the trail user community. The trail user community in turn reached out to Los Angeles County. With support from Supervisor Antonovich, the County Parks and Recreation division was tasked with developing a trail master plan for the Castaic Area. The objective was to develop a plan that would guide future trail development, and provide a framework for future planning.
CORBA also took this opportunity to move forward our 2010 LA County Bike Park proposal, and feedback was gathered through this process on where a Bike Skills Park might be located in the Castaic area. Three potential bike park locations have been identified in the plan.
The plan also lays out the framework for improving connectivity to and between existing trail networks, parking and trailhead infrastructure for equestrians, and for other users. The County held a series of user group specific meetings at which the public was invited to draw on maps where trails should be, where they are now but aren’t shown, and what facilities or improvements may be needed to bring unofficial trails into the County trail system.
On October 25, 2016, the County Board of Supervisors will vote on the plan. If approved the plan will be incorporated into the Los Angeles County General Plan. It doesn’t mean that the bike park and proposed new trails will be built. If funding or development opportunities arise, the plan will help guide investments in trails and bike parks.
CORBA will be there to speak in support of this plan and the Puente Hills Landfill Park master plan, and to further advocate for the construction of bike skills parks at both locations. We are building momentum in bringing Bike Parks to Los Angeles, but without community support, they won’t happen. Now it’s up to us to urge our elected officials to support the trail master plan and bike park components. Here’s how to help:
JOIN US at the Board meeting, 9:30 am, Tuesday October 25, at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Room 381B, 500 W Temple Street, Los Angeles. You can comment on the Puente Hills Landfill Park Master Plan, and the Castaic Trail Master Plan, both of which include bike skills parks.
Email your County Supervisor! Let them know you support a multi-use Puente Hills park that provides a diverse array of recreational opportunities including multi-use trails and a bike park.
President Obama signs the proclamation, October 10, 2014
Next month, October 10, 2016 marks the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s proclamation declaring the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. We’re also two years in to the three-year deadline imposed on the Forest Service to develop a Management Plan for the new National Monument. The management plan development process is well on track to meet the October 10, 2017 deadline for completion, with a draft Environmental Analysis (EA) and draft Management Plan released on August 17, 2016. The public has until November 1st to submit comments on the EA and draft Plan.
Since the Proclamation, the Forest Service has conducted the Need to Change analysis, identifying what needed to change in the current Forest Management Plan to fulfill the mandates of the Proclamation. CORBA and thousands of others subhttp://need to changemitted comments on what we thought needed to change, which the Forest Service considered when developing the EA and draft Plan. The comment period has been extended until November 1st, to ensure everyone ample time to review, while still keeping on track for the 2017 deadline.
Join CORBA, SMMTC, COSCA and other volunteer groups to work on the Conejo Open Space trails in Thousand Oaks.
This year we’ll be building a new trail, about 0.7 miles long, that leads from the top of the steep ‘Baxter Road’ in Newbury Park around and down to near the south end of the Hawk Canyon Trail in the Western Plateau / Conejo Canyons.
There will be a thank you lunch and prize drawings at noon after the work. This is a great event with lots of like-minded folks to help out. If you use the trails in Thousand Oaks, come out and help build and maintain them! No prior experience is necessary and all volunteers work at their own pace, taking plenty of time to rest and chat with other trail enthusiasts!
This annual Conejo Valley event always helps to put some very sweet trails into good shape. Be sure to stay afterwards for the free lunch and raffle.
Currently mountain bike advocacy is facing one of the the most important long-term issues in our history. The issue is whether mountain bikes should be allowed on trails in Wilderness areas. How mountain bikers and advocacy leaders respond to this can either be polarizing or make us an even stronger voice in the trail user and land stewardship community.
In Idaho Montana, the Wood River Bicycle Coalition, an IMBA chapter, worked with IMBA to build support for a National Monument rather than a Wilderness area. Over a period of several years, negotiations with wilderness advocates, motorized and other recreation groups and elected officials formed a broad coalition of support. However, raw ugly politics ultimately produced a Congressional designation for the Boulder White Clouds Wilderness. This was a painful and well-publicized loss to the mountain biking community. The land protection provisions they had negotiated in good faith to produce a bicycle-friendly National Monument designation were ultimately lost to a crass political maneuver to deny President Obama any semblance of a success. Congress passed a Wilderness bill and the Castle Divide and Ant’s Basin trails were closed to bikes.
Meanwhile, attorney Ted Stroll had been continuing his research into the Wilderness Act, and the congressional debates and intent surrounding that landmark legislation as it was enacted in 1964. He had concluded that the original intent was never to exclude bicycles, as a human-powered form of low-impact recreation, from Wilderness areas. Further research led him to believe that, in accordance with our constitution, we have the right to bring our grievances to the U.S. government. To do this, he formed the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC), whose sole mission is to pass legislation that would allow local land managers to open trails to bicycles in Wilderness, and to authorize the use of machinery that would allow the most cost-effective and efficient maintenance on Wilderness trails, on a case-by-case, trail-by-trail basis.
How many mountain bikers view the wilderness ban on bikes
The timing of the Idaho defeat brought heightened attention to the STC and their focused, single-issue mission. It cast doubt in the mountain biking community about the effectiveness of IMBA’s approach of building broad partnerships and seeking compromises to both protect bicycle access, while protecting the landscapes through which we ride bikes with a mix of Wilderness boundary adjustments, cherry-stems, and alternative designations. This approach has been highly successful in many instances, but there have been some exceptions, with this loss in Idaho being the most recent and the most publicized.
Condor Peak Trail – Wilderness advocates are still proposing a Condor Peak Wilderness.
Here in the Angeles National Forest, we’ve lost access to much of the backcountry trail network on our Forest. This has placed increased use pressure on non-Wilderness trails by all user groups. Trail maintenance on Wilderness trails has come to a near-halt in many areas, and all user groups are losing those trails to nature. We don’t have any bicycle-legal singletrack options to traverse the San Gabriel Mountains north-south, or east-west, because of numerous closed trails, Wilderness designations, and restrictions on bicycles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Similarly, in the Sierra, Inyo, and Sequoia National Forests there are vast swaths of Wilderness and a few isolated areas that are open to bikes, many of which are currently being evaluated for Wilderness (and, remarkably, the folks who maintain many Wilderness trails and can’t keep up with the workload have objected to any new Wilderness.).
These Wilderness losses are very much a localized issue, affecting California and the Western States disproportionately to other areas. California has the most Wilderness areas of any state, and is second only to Alaska in Wilderness acres. Here in CORBA’s territory, we have the largest population base in the country near a National Forest. 1 in 20 Americans live within easy driving distance of the Angeles National Forest, with its five Wilderness areas and additional Recommended Wilderness taking nearly one third of the Forest.
Condor Peak Trail
Recreational activities are greatly reduced in Wilderness areas compared to non-wilderness areas, even if bicycles are left out of the equation. Maintenance efforts are greatly reduced and near-impossible for the Forest Service to schedule, as the cost of manual labor to rebuild trails (no mechanized tools allowed, even wheelbarrows) means these trails often don’t get worked on. While the same can be said of many lesser-used non-wilderness trails, this doesn’t bode well for the future of Wilderness trail recreation.
It also disproportionately affects a smaller subset of the mountain biking community who seek out, relish, and live for backcountry wilderness-type settings that can be experienced by bicycle. It’s why I started mountain biking, and what inspires me to continue exploring and experiencing these majestic landscapes. Sure, I love purpose-built flow trails, downhill trails, and our many favorite local trails. They are needed, but they don’t offer the same experience and escape that some of us live for. We need a broad spectrum of experiences and trail types to cover the many diverse reasons for which people ride mountain bikes, including wilderness-type experiences.
There have been calls for IMBA to take a stronger stand on the Wilderness access issue in print media, the blogosphere, and on social media. In fact, if you have followed closely, the amount of grandstanding on both sides of the bikes in wilderness debate has escalated. From reading some of what has been published, one could easily come away with the assumption that mountain bikers have to pick a side: either support the Sustainable Trails Coalition or support IMBA. Over the past month there have been many calls, emails and forum posts asking to cancel IMBA memberships.
Some writers in the print media have accused IMBA of taking a hardline stance against the STC, but there is much more nuance to their statements that has been overlooked. IMBA hasn’t condemned the STC or opposed their efforts. In fact, IMBA has for many months taken a neutral public policy position toward STC’s strategy, neither supporting nor opposing. Publicly, IMBA has simply stated that the STC approach is not appropriate for IMBA’s mission, given STC’s single focus, uphill battle, risks and uncertain future.
Pressure continues to mount calling for IMBA to support the STC, or at the bare minimum, take a more conciliatory stance and acknowledge the common ground that exist between the two organizations. IMBA have held a press conference explaining their position, posted an FAQ on land protection strategies they will continue to utilize, and conducted four Chapter Leader Executive Briefings with question and answer sessions with approximately 100 chapter leaders nationwide, which I attended. Many forum comments have construed their public arguments and tone as denigrating and dismissive of the STC, but in direct conversations with IMBA staff, that tone is much more nuanced.
With all this attention on Wilderness, one could be misled into thinking that this was the only issue facing mountain bikers. Admittedly, it is probably the most far-reaching issue that could fundamentally change our approach, as mountain bikers, to land protections nationwide, and especially in the Western states like California. But there are still plenty of more immediate issues and opportunities that need immediate, focussed attention, and that is where IMBA has chosen to put its limited resources and energy.
We see this “us vs. them” dichotomy as far from the case. The fact that IMBA has chosen not to support STC does not infringe upon anyone’s first amendment right to speak up for and support the STC, including us as a chapter of IMBA. IMBA’s (and CORBA’s, for that matter) plate is full with current mountain biking issues, and the vast amount of attention and resources needed to achieve the STC’s mission and focus on Wilderness access would hinder our ability to tend to more immediate threats, identify new opportunities, take advantage of current opportunities, and just get things done now.
We believe we need both organizations. STC’s single, focussed mission is to enact legislation that will allow management of wilderness trail access (and mechanized maintenance) to happen at the most local level feasible. STC is not a membership organization and as such is not structured for or able to do anything on the ground right now to open closed trails to bikes or develop and maintain positive relationships with land managers that are key to our future successes. It will be a difficult struggle and take some time before STC’s efforts may prove fruitful.
IMBA chapters are currently doing the vast majority of advocacy and access work at the local levels. If STC is eventually successful in passing their legislation it will likely be IMBA chapters doing the necessary outreach and hands-on work to give the STC’s legislation teeth, by working directly with local land managers to open trails under the authority of STC’s Human Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2016 (HPWTMA).
Despite what has been claimed by the Wilderness Society and others opposed to bicycles in Wilderness, the STC bill doesn’t open ANY trails to bikes or mechanized maintenance. It allows the “most local” land managers feasible (likely district rangers and supervisors) to make those determinations on a case-by-case, trail-by-trail basis. That’s why IMBA chapters will need those strong relationships when and if the time comes.
You can bet the opposition to bikes will only get louder when that happens, both locally and nationally. It will be IMBA chapters with current, strong land manager relations that will be best positioned to follow through on any STC success. Land managers aren’t just going to open trails to bikes in wilderness areas if the STC bill is eventually enacted. If the STC bill does go through–and let’s be clear that we hope it eventually will–IMBA Chapters will need to actively engage with local land managers to open trails to bikes under the newly granted authority of STC’s legislation. Even then, those trail openings will probably require a lengthy NEPA process, and may come with restrictions. Permits, capacity limits, mandatory leave-no-trace classes, or other hurdles could be put in place as a part of that Wilderness access. Passing of the HPWTMA is just the starting point to opening trails in Wilderness.
In the meantime if people start choosing to drop support for IMBA chapters to support the STC, that will impede our ability to get things done now, such as bike parks, trail maintenance, new trails, and being a crucial voice in current land management and trail planning efforts. If CORBA/IMBA is weakened by an attrition of supporters now, it will hinder our ability in the future to build upon any STC success, and open trails currently closed to bikes by Wilderness designations.
One of the best things that STC is doing is bringing more attention to this major access issue. What saddens and frustrates us is that social media are misinterpreting some of IMBA’s responses, and turning this into an “us vs. them” situation, which will weaken our efforts on both fronts. We’d much preferred to have a more conciliatory tone from IMBA towards STC, even in the absence of outright support. IMBA has alienated a portion of their members through their statements and firm stance. That just doesn’t need to be so.
There is room–and a great need–for another group like STC to give the Wilderness issue the razor-sharp focus it will need to see through.
IMBA is a 501c3 and cannot directly lobby our government to introduce new legislation, endorse political candidates, and other restrictions. IMBA (and CORBA) are set up as 501c3 public benefit corporations, that can only influence existing laws and policies through public comments, broad-based partnerships with other organizations, and encouraging our members to speak up with their own comments and letters to elected representatives and land managers.
STC is set up as a 501c4, with the specific purpose of directly lobbying congress and our elected officials to enact change at the legislative level. They are able to do things that IMBA and CORBA cannot. It’s important to note that the Sierra Club is a 501c4, just like the STC. They have a companion 501c3, the Sierra Club Foundation, which collects tax-deductible donations that can then be used to support the lobbying efforts of their 501c4. They also operate under budgets 100 times larger than IMBA’s. Most mountain bikers are decidedly lackadaisical in their approach to advocacy–until their favorite trail is closed, or threatened to be closed. And as previously mentioned, while most mountain bikers support opening some trails in Wilderness to bicycles, the number of riders who may eventually utilize wilderness trails is likely much lower.
The mountain biking community has never had a 501c4 organization to stand behind before the STC came along. Just as the Sierra club leverages both a 501c3 and a 501c4 for various, but related, purposes, the mountain biking community has needed both a 501c3 and a 501c4 voice. As mentioned, where we see things have gone awry is that IMBA’s firm but neutral stance has been twisted and construed in social media and the blog/print media as an “us vs. them” situation.
IMBA’s approach is appropriate for IMBA. The STC approach is appropriate for STC. Together, they have brought more attention to this contentious debate, and hopefully helped engage a new cadre of concerned mountain bikers ready to advocate for continued access to trails–both inside and outside of Wilderness. Both organizations are advocating for increased trail access. They are just employing different strategies and tactics.
Let me re-iterate that in the long run, if STC is successful, strong IMBA chapters will be best positioned to make the changes that STC’s bill will authorize. We’ll then need to leverage our ongoing track record of being good land and trail stewards, and work side-by-side with local land managers to open trails in Wilderness areas. We’ll need to work hard to usher those requests through the NEPA process, and deal with the opposition to bikes that will inevitably emerge. If our voice is weakened by a lack of support now, we’ll be in a more difficult position to ask for trails to be opened under the STC bill’s authority in the future.
If STC is unsuccessful, IMBA chapters like CORBA will continue to work to make a difference, just as we have been doing for more than 29 years. We just hope to have the continued–and even increased– level of support we now get from our members.
But things at IMBA have changed somewhat. Their 2016 advocacy position clearly states that they will continue to fight more aggressively to keep trails open in the face of Wilderness proposals, wherever there are local chapters available to do the local on-the-ground work needed. They have been emboldened to take a firmer stance than ever before to prevent trail closures, within the constraints they operate under as a 501c3. Wilderness and environmental advocates are finding it increasingly difficult to pass Wilderness legislation when advocacy groups like IMBA and its chapters are directly and strongly opposed. IMBA is also investigating the merits of a legal challenge to recent trail access losses in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho. They have expressed a desire to legislatively adjust existing Wilderness boundaries to open trails that have been closed to bikes (without any changes to the Wilderness Act itself). But their stance falls short of lobbying for sweeping change at the legislative level, which is precisely what STC is positioned to do.
CORBA and IMBA have on a number of occasions asked for “language-based exemptions” to prohibitions on bikes on specific trails in new Wilderness proposals. We’ve usually been turned down on these requests as being “incompatible with the intent of the Wilderness Act” even though numerous language-based exemptions exist for purposes other than bicycle travel and recreation, and the STC’s contention that the “intent” of the Wilderness Act has been misinterpreted in current regulations. Yet what STC is proposing is making such language-based exemptions (or, more accurately, allowing Forest Service orders to authorize access) for bicycles and trail maintenance, an integral part of an amended Wilderness Act.
Let’s not have this issue divide us, weaken us, and allow us to be conquered. Our members can support both STC and CORBA/IMBA, and both organizations will be stronger for it. While we applaud the STC for their approach, CORBA will continue to work on efforts that have immediate, near-term benefit to all mountain bikers and our public lands: trail maintenance, management plan advocacy, currently pending bills, land manager relations, education, and stewardship.
We also hope that one day, CORBA will be in a position to ask our local land managers to open trails in current Wilderness areas to bikes, under the authority of STC’s legislation. But until then, we have to stay strong, stay united, and keep striving towards making immediate, short-term differences, happy in the knowledge that STC is working on a long-term strategy that most of our members agree would be a step in the right direction for all of us.
Come and join us to learn about current issues and let us know what concerns you! Always open to the public, the CORBA Board of Directors’ meeting is held the 4th Monday of the month in Woodland Hills. REI is kind enough to let us use their meeting room, for which we thank them profusely!
Every month (except December, when we have no meeting), we discuss these topics:
Issues of trail access for mountain bikers
Mountain bike advocacy and ambassadorship
The latest news from the land managers, including State Parks and National Park Service
Trail building and restoration
Furthering woman’s mountain biking
Bike parks and other dedicated mountain bike facilities or trails
Education and etiquette
Anything brought forward by members of the public
The meetings are 6 – 8 pm at the REI in Woodland Hills:
6220 Topanga Canyon Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
P: (818) 703-5300
The National Park Service today released the Final Study Recommendations for the Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resources Study. CORBA has been involved in the Rim of the Valley process since congress authorized the study in 2008, and even before that when the concept was only for a Rim of the Valley trail. We are pleased to see the final recommendation includes most of what we–and many other groups and individuals–suggested in our comments. The recommendation is a hybrid of Alternatives C and D of the draft released last June.
The Secretary of the Interior transmitted the final study to Congress on February 16, 2016. The final study recommends a 170,000-acre addition to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.The selected alternative would add portions of the Los Angeles River and Arroyo Seco corridors, the Verdugo Mountains-San Rafael Hills, the San Gabriel Mountains foothills, the Simi Hills, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Conejo Mountain area to the national recreation area. Within the expanded area are: habitat types that contribute to the high biodiversity of the Santa Monica Mountains; functioning wildlife corridors; highly scenic landscapes; historic and archeological sites; geologic and paleontological resources; thousands of acres of open space and recreation areas; and miles of trails, all of which provide exceptional public enjoyment opportunities. Expanding Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area would provide new recreational opportunities for one of the most densely populated areas in the United States.
No lands currently managed by the Forest Service (Angeles National Forest and Los Padres National Forest) are included in the proposed boundary expansion of the SMMNRA. However, the National Park Service could partner with the Forest Service on projects, as needed, and as permitted under their current “service first authority.” Existing land managers would continue to manage their lands, but the inclusion of those lands within the expanded boundary of the SMMNRA would allow the NPS to work with them to acquire land from willing sellers, or invest in capitol improvements for recreation or habitat improvements.
The study at this point is just a recommendation from the Secretary of the Interior to Congress. It will be up to congress to take those recommendations and act on them. Or they may not. It many be many years, if ever, before the boundaries of the SMMNRA are adjusted as recommended in the Study.
The final study report, errata from the draft study and an analysis of public comments submitted can be found at http://www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley/
As we reported last year, Over this past year, CORBA has stepped up our Volunteer Sawyer program within the CORBA Trail Crew. CORBA’s two B-Level Sawyers, Mike McGuire and Steve Messer have worked almost year-round cutting trees off trails around the Station Fire burn area of the Angeles National Forest. We’ve worked side-by-side with Hot Shots fire crews, with Mount Wilson Bicycling Association, with volunteers from other groups, with the Restoration Legacy Crew and others. We’ve cleared trees from more than a dozen trails in the past year, most recently 89 trees from Dawn Mine trail in February.
In the current March 2016 issue of Mountain Bike Action, CORBA President and trail crew leader Steve Messer was interviewed for a story on wildfire impacts to trails, something we’ve been dealing with since the Station Fire. The article is a five-page spread, and features several photos of a typical day of volunteer sawyer work, as we cut a very large tree off Strawberry Peak trail. The article is not yet available online on the Mountain Bike Action web site, but we hope it will be posted publicly in the coming months. Right now it is only available in the print magazine.
This past week Chris from Southern California Outdoor Adventures generously donated a brand new Stihl 291 20″ chainsaw to CORBA. Chris understands the importance of what we’re doing and was happy to make sure we have the best, most efficient equipment needed to get the job done. This helps his shuttle customers enjoy the trails without obstruction. Our current fleet of saws includes a Stihl 16″, the new 20″ and a 25″ saw. The donated 20″ is a great balance between the portability of the 16″ and the capability of the 25″, and will probably become our go-to saw for most jobs. We truly appreciate the support of Southern California Outdoor Adventures, one of the most respected shuttle operators here in Southern California.
The day we received the new saw, Thursday, February 11, we went out to check on trails in the Chilao area. Given the recent storms and high wind–now followed by a heat wave– we knew there was work to be done. We found a number of trees in the Charlton Flat area, along the closed Vetter Mountain trail, and along Silver Moccasin trail. We removed two large trees from Silver Moccasin, before weather conditions (wind and low humidity) forced us to end the day’s work. The new saw was a dream to run! Thanks SCOA!
New sawyer training is being scheduled sometime in March 2016. Candidate Sawyers must have an existing volunteer agreement with the Forest Service, have first aid and CPR certification. First you will be certified as A-level sawyers, allowing you to cut smaller trees under supervision of a B-level sawyer or higher. After a year at the A-level, sawyers can do the additional training and upgrade to a B-level after which they can cut unsupervised and deal with larger, more complex trail clearing operations. These certifications are restricted to bucking and limbing only, meaning we can clear fallen trees from trails, but we can’t fell standing dead trees. Nor do we need to. Let us know if you’d like to become a certified sawyer and help keep our trails clear.
Six years after the station fire, the number of standing dead trees within striking distance of trails, roads, campgrounds and other facilities, is staggering. These trees will continue to fall every time there is a weather event. The Forest Service is actively working to remove hazard trees from around vital infrastructure such as campgrounds and roads, but it’s going to be up to volunteer groups like CORBA, Mount Wilson Bicycling Association, Boy Scouts of America, Angeles Crest 100, and San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders sawyer crews to keep our trails clear of downed trees as best we can.
If you find a new downed tree along a trail, or any potentially dangerous or environmentally damaging trail conditions, snap a photo with your phone, record the location and send a quick email to let us know. We’ll either take care of it, or get it to the people who can. It’s best to include a GPS waypoint or position (or simply turn on location tagging on your phone’s camera app).