Archive for the ‘Angeles National Forest’ Category

Public Lands Update

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

This year we have seen legislation introduced to further protect and enhance our local open spaces and public lands.

HR3039, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act. Judy Chu introduced this bill in June. The bill would establish two new units of Wilderness within the Angeles National Forest. CORBA worked for two years with wilderness advocates to ensure these newly-proposed designations would not impact trails used by mountain bikers. The bill establishes the Condor Peak Wilderness and Yerba Buena Wilderness units, separated by the Condor Peak Trail. Condor Peak trail and Trail Canyon trail to the waterfall and campground would remain open to bicycles under this new designation.

Rim of the Valley

Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, S1993/HR4086.

This bill by Adam Schiff/Diane Feinstein would expand the boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include open spaces around the Conejo, Simi, San Fernando, La Crescenta and Verdugo valleys. It does not change any land ownership or management but allows the National Park Service to partner with current land managers to improve habitat, wildlife corridors, and recreational opportunities. It puts into action the findings of the Rim of the Valley Corridor Study. It does not impact bicycle access to trails and could improve recreational opportunities.

H.R. 2323: San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act. This act introduced by Judy Chu would establish the San Gabriel National Recreation Area as a unit of the National Park System. The NRA would cover river corridors and open spaces from the Angeles National Forest border through the San Gabriel Valley. It does not create any new federally-managed public land. It would allow the National Park Service to partner with existing land managers to improve habitat, biodiversity, and recreational access. It would also expand the boundary of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include areas of the Angeles Front Country that are currently outside the Monument.

While these bills have been introduced, it remains to be seen whether they will make it out of their respective committees.

CORBA’s mission includes the protection of the places we play. Nationally, as the current administration proposes major changes to environmental regulations, national monument boundaries (our San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is not expected to be a target of boundary reductions), forest management practices, permitted uses, we stand ready to speak up for our local public lands and the recreational opportunities they provide and we all cherish.

HR3039, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Condor Peak Trail before the Station Fire

Condor Peak Trail (2007)

On June 23, 2017, Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced a new bill to expand wilderness areas in the Angeles National Forest, and protect several rivers as wild and scenic rivers. Spearheaded by the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group, the bill is the result of many years of efforts to protect our local mountains.

A previous success of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group was the establishment of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. CORBA President Steve Messer has been representing mountain bikers on the San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative, working alongside representatives of the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and other environmental and social justice organizations.

For the past eighteen months we’ve been working together to ensure that mountain biking gets due consideration in these proposals. CORBA has opposed previous wilderness efforts that hurt bicyclists’ access to trails. With support from IMBA and MWBA, we worked out boundary adjustments that expand the Sheep Mountain and San Gabriel wilderness areas, but do not impact any trails that are currently open to bicycles.

The bill also establishes two new units of the Wilderness Preservation System, the Condor Peak Wilderness and the Yerba Buena Wilderness. These two wilderness areas protect the majestic Condor Peak, while leaving the Condor Peak trail outside the wilderness areas with a wide buffer.  While Condor Peak is not a popular trail for cyclists, it offers an increasingly-unique wilderness-type backcountry experience for those seeking to challenge themselves in nature. The trail can continue to be maintained using mechanized tools.

The western boundary of the proposed Yerba Buena Wilderness is the Yerba Buena Ridge trail, which could provide an epic backcountry loop ride with Condor Peak trail. Both trails, however, are in need of maintenance and are on our radar for future restoration work.

Condor Peak Trail

The following areas will be designated as wilderness in HR 3039:

Condor Peak Wilderness: Located in the Lower and Upper Big Tujunga Watersheds this designation preserves 8,417 acres of public lands. The unit rises abruptly from 1,800 feet on its southern flanks to over 6,000 feet at its northern boundary near Mt. Gleason. The Condor Peak Trail will be outside the Western boundary of this unit. Yerba Buena Wilderness: Preserves one of the most spectacular undeveloped landscapes in the San Gabriel Mountains (6,774 acres). The Condor Peak trail is just outside the eastern boundary of this unit. The western boundary is 300′ from the Yerba Buena Ridge trail, leaving both open to bicycles. The Trail Canyon Trail is cherry-stemmed (excluded from wilderness) up to the campground and waterfall. San Gabriel Wilderness Additions: This adds 2,027 acres to the existing San Gabriel Wilderness encompassing areas with dramatically rising slopes and a variety of flora and fauna. Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions: Adds 13,851 acres to the established Sheep Mountain Wilderness. The Sheep Mountain Wilderness Additions are contiguous with the existing wilderness and add important landscapes to the wilderness area’s northwest and southwest/southern flanks.The bill also protects the 25.3 miles of the East, West and North Forks of the San Gabriel River, and 20.2 miles of Little Rock Creek as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

We truly appreciate being able to be proactive, working with the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, CalWild, and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group. We also benefited greatly from IMBA’s support at the national level, and our partnership with the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association locally.

While this wilderness bill does not hurt mountain bikers’ access to trails, it does nothing to expand or directly improve existing opportunities. It does however, protect the remote backcountry experiences provided by the Condor Peak trail, the Yerba Buena Ridge trail, and the lower Trail Canyon Trail, ensuring these trails through this pristine landscape will be preserved, ready to be experienced by foot, hoof or bicycle.

Support the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

CORBA, IMBA, REI, and NFF at the Oaks Unveiling

CORBA has submitted a letter supporting the preservation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. President Trump’s executive order 13792 called for a revision of the many National Monuments that were presidentially-designated under the Antiquities Act from the last two decades. Department of Interior Secretary Zinke has been charged with overseeing the review of these National Monuments for a number of specific items:

In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider, and is seeking public comment on:

(i) The requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;

(ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;

(iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;

(iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;

(v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;

(vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and

(vii) such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate. 82 FR 20429-20430 (May 1, 2017).

As a participating member of the San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative, CORBA agrees with the findings expressed in the Collaborative’s letter to Secretary Zinke. While there are both supporters and one-time opponents of the Monument on the Collaborative, the Collaborative’s letter specifically addressed each of the seven points of consideration listed above without expressing support or opposition to the monument itself. The findings are that the Monument meets or exceeds the criteria established above. The Collaborative’s letter can be found HERE

CORBA has submitted a letter of support as well, and we urge our members and constituents to submit your own comments at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001.

CORBA’s letter can be found HERE.

 

Vetter Mountain Trail to Open May 5, 2017

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

After more than two years of dedicated volunteer work by CORBA and MWBA volunteer sawyers, we’re happy to announce that the Vetter Mountain Trail, near Charlton Flat in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, will be open to the public this weekend.

Our volunteer sawyer crew has been cutting downed trees off the trail, clearing brush, and working to reopen the heavily-damaged trail. It is in one of the most badly burned areas of the 2009 Station Fire, and thousands of trees killed in the fire have been falling since then.

Vetter Mountain Trail, May 2010

We surveyed the trail for the Forest Service in 2010, the year after the Station Fire. The area had barely begun recovering and would need several more years before work could begin. Vegetation had to grow back, hillsides stabilize, and standing dead trees would fall to the ground. Intense poodle dog settled in not long after, increasing the hazards.

October 2015 we began volunteer work, needing to first clear the trail corridor as best we could, and in many cases, locate the trail. CORBA and MWBA Chainsaw crews began the heavy work. Sawyers have cut well over 100 trees that fell across the trail, and dozens more on the roads to access the trail, in ten days of chainsaw work over the last year. We cut back brush that was choking off the trail, and reopened the corridor. Three times over the past year we cleared the entire trail of downed trees, only to return months later to start again.

Volunteer Sawyers begin work on Vetter in 2015

Earlier this year, hot shots fire crews were able to fell most of the largest standing hazard trees, reducing hazards along the trail corridor. The rate of trees falling is slowing down, especially since the big windstorms of this past winter. Numerous dead trees are still standing, and will continue to pose a hazard for some time, much like many other trails in the recovering areas. Be especially aware if you’re on the trails in a burn zone during high winds or bad weather, as dead trees are especially prone to falling in these conditions.

Volunteers on National Trails Day

Last Saturday, at our urging, the Forest Service scheduled the annual National Trails Day volunteer project on the Vetter Mountain trail. Volunteer Crews from Coca Cola, MWBA, CORBA, JPL Trail Builders, Angeles National Forest Fire Lookout Association, National Forest Foundation and many other groups and individuals proceeded to re-establish tread and cut back brush. Sawyer crews chainsawed a dozen or more trees from the trail. Sunday, CORBA volunteer sawyers returned to continue cutting the remaining downed trees from the trail.

Today, Thursday May 4, the CORBA team will return to put some final touches on the trail, remove the last remaining obstructions, and officially remove the “trail closed” signs in preparation for the trail’s opening this weekend.

The Vetter Mountain trail has been closed for 8 years. It is part of the classic and much-loved Chilao Figure 8, a popular mountain bike loop that includes the Charlton Connector Trail, Vetter Mountain Trail, Mount Hillyer Trail, connecting fire roads, and the Silver Mocassin trail. It has been missed, and will be enjoyed once again!

Once lush with majestic conifers, and known for a series of switchbacks, followed by a flowy descent along a drainage, the trail looks much less apocalyptic than it did on our first survey in 2010. The area is recovering, but it is still within the burn zone, and will look very different from it’s pre-fire state. We’re just happy to have it back!

The Vetter Mountain trail has been closed for 8 years. It was part of the classic and much-loved Chilao Figure 8, a route that includes the Charlton Connector Trail, Vetter Mountain Trail, Mount Hillyer Trail, connecting fire roads, and the Silver Mocassin trail. It has been missed, and will be enjoyed once again!

SCV Trail Users Affiliate with CORBA

Friday, April 14th, 2017

SCV Trail Users volunteer at Placerita Canyon, 2016

Santa Clarita, California – April 14, 2017 – The Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users Committee (SCVTU) is pleased to announce their restructuring to become a standing committee of the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

In recent years, SCVTU has worked closely with CORBA on trail advocacy and planning in the Santa Clarita Valley and northern Los Angeles area. A committee charter was adopted by SCVTU, and approved by the CORBA Board at the March monthly meeting.

“This is a logical next step to strengthen the relationship between SCVTU and CORBA to increase our effectiveness as a bicycle advocacy organization,” said Steve Messer, CORBA President. “Together we’ll be better prepared to improve mountain biking opportunities in and around the Santa Clarita Valley.”

Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users has developed strong relationships with local land managers over the past several years including City, County, State, and Federal officials. SCVTU recently led a volunteer effort in the Placerita Nature Center to build check dams after the Sand Fire to protect the sensitive canyon from further environmental damage. SCVTU was also instrumental in working with the Los Angeles County to reopen the Canyon Trail to bicycles.

“CORBA has been a valuable resource to SCV Trail Users for many years. Santa Clarita is uniquely surrounded by open space affording local residents a unique opportunity for outdoor recreation on a beautiful trail network.  Our vision is to work with local land managers to improve connectivity between trail areas and to increase and improve multi-use trail opportunities for public use in the Santa Clarita area,” said Ken Raleigh, SCVTU Chairman.

The timing couldn’t be better. With a new trail master planning process for the Santa Susana Mountains about to begin, and approved City and County trail master plans that include bike parks and new trails, there is a lot happening in the Santa Clarita Valley. There are also some challenges including the Sand Fire recovery efforts now underway. The SCVTU committee is hitting the ground running.

Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users Facebook page has over 400 members. The Committee is comprised of 10 members with founding member, Ken Raleigh, serving as Chair.

2016: A Busy, Productive Year

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

2016 is behind us, and what a year it was for CORBA and mountain bikers! We were extremely busy last year, cutting trails, cutting trees, and working on behalf of the mountain bike community to ensure continued and improved access to mountain biking in the greater Los Angeles and Eastern Ventura County areas.

Jim Burton cuts the ceremonial ribbon, as Steve Messer, Matt Lay and Jenny Johnson of MWBA, and Ken's daughters Heather and Tania look on.

Opening of Ken Burton Trail

In 2016, the Gabrielino Trail Restoration project, with REI, Bellfree Contractors, and Los Angeles Conservation Corps, was completed.  Ken Burton Trail restoration with MWBA was completed, opening the Ken Burton trail and a popular loop after seven years of closure, thousands of volunteer hours, and nearly three years of planning.

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San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Comments

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Community Collaborative

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.

The Collaborative’s Comments

CORBA and MWBA Comments

 

Sand Fire Closure Revised in the Angeles National Forest

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

On October 17, 2016, the Forest Service revised the Sand Fire Closure order.  The order was drawn up while the fire was still burning. It included many areas that did not burn. Now that the fire has been fully contained for several weeks The Forest Service has reduced the closure area, reopening many areas and trails that were not burned, but were in the initial closure.

2016-10-17-sand-fire-closure_01

Newly re-opened trails include:

  • the Santa Clara Truck Trail (AKA the Beast) (4N17), from Newhall Road to the top of Wilson Canyon,
  • Wilson Canyon (3N56)
  • May Canyon (3N54)
  • Viper
  • Oak Springs Trail (14W10)
  • all trails south of Mendenhall Ridge, including Condor Peak and Trail Canyon,
  • all trails east of Moody Canyon, Lightning Point and Mt. Gleason.

Closed trails include (but are not limited to):

  • Los Pinetos Trail,
  • Santa Clara Truck Trail (4N17) from Wilson Saddle to Mt. Gleason,
  • Mendenhall Ridge (3N32),
  • Powerline  (AKA Burma Road) (3N37),
  • Pacoima Canyon Trail,
  • Moody Canyon (4N33),
  • Indian Canyon (4N37),
  • Pacific Crest Trail from Mt. Gleason to Indian Canyon,
  • Dagger Flat Trail.

Little Tujunga Canyon road remains closed from Santa Clara Truck Trail (Bear Divide) to 1.5 miles north of Gold Creek Road.

The closure is needed for public safety and resource protection. The burnt areas could be subject to flash flooding, debris flows, and landslides during the coming winter rains, posing a danger to public safety. Burned areas are also much more sensitive, and can easily be damaged by going off trail.

For more information on how fires impact trails, see the interview with CORBA’s Steve Messer in Trails After the Wildfire, Mountain Bike Action.

 

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
President Obama signs the proclamation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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.

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Chantry Flat Shuttle Service Pilot Program

Monday, September 12th, 2016
chantry_shuttle_flyer_final_high_rez_01

Click for larger version.

As part of President Obama’s proclamation declaring the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, the Forest Service was tasked with creating a management plan within three years. Meetings about the plan are being held this week.

For the first time in Forest Service history, the agency was also tasked with the development of a Transportation Plan that would achieve a number of goals: provide access for those without vehicles or other means to get to the Monument, mitigate parking and over-use problems, and address environmental justice.

Over the summer, the city of Duarte did a trial run of shuttles from the newly opened Gold Line light rail station to Fish Canyon falls trailhead, giving Forest visitors a vehicle-free way to access the forest.

Over the next few weeks, a second pilot program will be running shuttles from the Arcadia Gold Line station to Chantry Flat, where there is a historic mule pack station, numerous multi-use trails, picnic facilities, historic cabins and at least two waterfalls. The free shuttle is being operated in partnership with Car-less California and the Forest Service.

For this pilot program, unfortunately the smaller buses aren’t equipped to carry bicycles, but for those who want to ride a bicycle to the rail line, there are bike lockup facilities at the Gold Line station. The Forest Service is already aware of our desire to have bike racks available when and if a permanent shuttle service is provided.

The shuttle will operate for three weekends with the first shuttle leaving Arcadia at 7 am and the last shuttle leaving Chantry Flat at 4pm. The shuttle will run continuously, approximately every 30 – 45 minutes. Dates:

September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and 25, then October 1 and 2, and October 8 and 9. The shuttle is free, no reservations are required.