Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

CORBA Supports Wildlife Crossing – Meeting October 12

Saturday, September 16th, 2017


Caltrans is moving forward with the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing across the 101 Freeway, west of Liberty Canyon.  The have released three draft alternatives, for public comment, and will be discussing them at a public meeting on October 12.

Public Meeting

October 12, 2017 – Public Hearing

When: October 12, 2017 6:00pm-8:00pm

Where:

King Gillette Ranch Auditorium
26800 Mulholland Hwy
Calabasas, CA 91302

Public Comments

The public comment period will be open from
September 11, 2017 to October 26, 2017.
You’re welcome to submit written comments by
October 26, 2017 to liberty.canyon@dot.ca.gov or to the address below:
Ronald Kosinski
Deputy Director, Division of Environmental Planning
California Department of Transportation
District 7, Division of Environmental Planning
100 S. Main Street, MS-16A
Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

This is a project that CORBA has fully supported. The wildlife crossing will improve the viability of our wildlife populations, especially our renowned mountain lions,.

Alternative 1 crosses the 101 freeway with a 165′ long bridge. Alternative 2 provides an extension that continues over Agoura Road.  Altternative 2 is further broken down into two ‘Build” alternatives: Option 1, a 48′ wide bridge and Option 2, a 54’ wide bridge.  Though more expensive, we have to support the option that gives wildlife the greatest chance of successfully crossing, Alternative 2, Option 2.

We’re especially excited that all the alternatives include a 5′ wide multi-use trail, linking open spaces and trail networks north and south of the freeway. This would allow one to ride or hike from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Simi Hills.

The Santa Monica Mountains Trail Master Plan is still under development, and we expect to see this crossing included in the TMP, with multi-use trail options linking the two trail networks. There has been no update on the status of that plan.

We urge all mountain bikers to email your support to  liberty.canyon@dot.ca.gov. The Deparment of Transport has all the information at http://www.dot.ca.gov/d7/projects/libertycanyon/. 

Here is CORBA’s letter of support. Feel free to copy all or part and customize for your own comments.

 

 

October 1, 2017

Ronald Kosinski
Deputy Director, Division of Environmental Planning
California Department of Transportation
District 7, Division of Environmental Planning
100 S. Main Street, MS-16A
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Re: Support for Proposed LIberty Ccanyon Wildlife Crossing

Dear Mr. Kosinski,

On hehalf of the Concered Off=Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), I am pleased to offer our full support for the proposed Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing. CORBA is an all-volunteer membership based 501c3, and a Chapter of the International Mountain Bicyclists Association.

Specifcially, We support Alternative 2, providing the safest passage for wildlife and trail users over both the 101 Freeway and Agoura Road. Further, we support Design Option 2 providing a 54′ wide bridge. We feel this option provides the greatest potential for successful wildlife crossings, and the most room for trail users, wildlife and vegetation.

We are especially pleased to see a 5′ wide multi-use natural-surface trail included. We fully support linking trail networks north and south of the freeway, from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Simi Hills. We also urge that the trails approaching the bridge and the trail over the proposed bridge be designed with ample sightlines and a few wider passing zones to minimize conflicts between trail users or wildlife.

The new trail connectivity this project enables will provide additional recreational opportunities for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers alike, in addition to its many crucial benefits for wildlife.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments.

Sincerely,

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.

 

Report on the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resources Study

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

September 3, 2009
by Steve Messer

Last night Hans Keifer, Steve Messer and Jim Hasenauer attended the public comment meeting put on by the National Park Service in Santa Clarita. The following is a summary of the presentation and our thoughts, concerns and feedback on the study.

History:

This study was mandated by Congress through a bill introduced by Hilda Solis back in about 2002 and passed in 2003. The study began in 2005, but this is the first much of the public has heard of the process, including me and other CORBA and IMBA volunteers. The study area includes much of the San Gabriel mountains, as well as the San Gabriel Watershed. The watershed includes the San Gabriel River drainage area within the national forest, as well as cities along the river and its watershed such as El Monte, Hacienda Heights, La Habra, Brea, Walnut, West Covina, Baldwin Park, Monrovia, La Verne,  and the Puente-Chino Hills area. See more on the study and the process.

Study Area:

The goal of the first stage of the study was to determine:

1. the “Significance” in biological, historical and recreational terms, of the study area.

2. the “Suitability” of the area for inclusion in the National Park system. That’s to say that it fills a gap in the National Park system that can’t be filled by anything else… ie. its uniqueness.

3. The “Feasibility” of bringing it into the National Park system in some manner.


So far the study has found that there is Significance worthy of national park protection. The mountains, the biodiversity, the unique geological character, architecture and history all make it significant.

There is “Suitability” in that there is nothing else quite like it already within the National Park System.

It was deemed to be infeasible to make any of the study area a National Park. There are too many land owners and land managers, too many private holdings even within the National Forest, and in many respects, would be re-inventing the wheel to start from scratch with what the Forest service has already accomplished in managing the forest.

However, it would be feasible for the National Parks service to come in and participate in the management and development of the area, in collaboration with the Forest Service and other land managers in the study area.

Of particular concern to us, as mountain bikers, is the continued access to the trails to which we have access, the possibility of new trails being built, and to avoid any further wilderness designations.

The final goal of the study is to present to congress a report on the Significance, Suitability and Feasibility of the area, and make a final recommendation as to the most effective and efficient way for the NPS to be involved in the management of the San Gabriel Mountains and San Gabriel River watershed.

What is not covered at this stage of the study is what happens after the study is complete.

Once the final recommendation is made, it would then be up to congress to decide what to do with the recommendation. Of particular note is that Hilda Solis is now Labor Secretary, and is no longer involved in the committee that would be receiving the results of the study she helped start. The recommendation may linger on a shelf and never be implemented, or it may get picked up, brought to committee, a further recommendation made to the full house, and then may or may not pass.

This introduces some concerns. Alternative A and Alternative C both have the largest federal presence, and both would require an act of Congress to implement. Whenever an act of congress is proposed, it will be debated and most likely amended. Amendments may introduce language to weaken our position as mountain bikers, to introduce more wilderness legislation, or to to pander to certain special interest groups with large lobbying powers. It opens the door for a whole range of uncertainties in the implementation of the plan.

But that scenario would be a long way off. The study is still (four years along) at a very preliminary stage. They expect to have the draft proposal ready in a year, another round of public meetings and comments, and present their findings to congress in 2011.

Several times during the presentation and the Q&A group sessions, it was expressed that the NPS would continue to allow the Forest Service to manage the forest, and other land managers would continue to manage their own jurisdictions. From our point of view as mountain bikers, this seems good policy, since the Forest Service has just spent five years or so developing the Forest Management Plan <http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles/projects/ForestPlan.shtml> in which the most productive use of the forest was deemed to be Recreation. It sounded like the Forest Service would be able to continue to implement that plan, which is not at odds with the concept of a “National Recreation Area.”

Jim, Hans, and myself split up and each joined a different discussion group. Nowhere was there any strong or vocal anti-mountain bike sentiment, and in Jim’s group four of the fifteen people were mountain bikers. My group were all hikers from Santa Clarita who wanted more trails and access from the northern slopes of the San Gabriels, which are greatly under-utilized in comparison to the more populated southern slopes. There was no equestrian presence, but a few in my group said that the equestrians were supportive and would be doing a letter writing campaign. Given the past positions of the Equestrian Trails, Inc. (ETI), their campaign will likely be very anti-mountain bike.

But this meeting wasn’t really about what people wanted more or less of (trails, signage, interpretive centers, etc) though that is what came up most in the group discussions. It was about how the forest and watershed would be managed, and the alternate proposals for how that partnership would function. Management includes the ability to meet the needs and provide the resources that the public want, something that just isn’t presently happening given the current financial situation of the FS. 85% of their budget presently goes to fire management (well spent at the moment) leaving little for improvements.

To summarize the three alternative plans:


Alternative A
, the forest would get the largest involvement by the NPS, the largest land area that would be covered (most of the Lower Angeles National Forest) and management would come mostly from the National Forest Service with assistance, input, and funding from the NPS. This seems to us, as the better option, with less agencies involved, more land area, and more funding. It incorporates most of the Southern Angeles National Forest, and little outside the forest.

Alternative B would have the NPS creating a Master Plan for the whole area, San Gabriel mountains, rivers, all of the cities and land managers along the river and into the Chino hills. After that master plan is developed, the NPS would have little involvement, and it would be up to each individual jurisdiction to implement that master plan as a the San Gabriels Parks and Open Space Network. It includes the southern Slopes and the San Gabriel mountains and the river corridors.

Alternative C would have the NPS taking a leadership role and overseeing a partnership between the FS and the many local land managers. The area would include only the San Gabriel watershed and river corridor. This would exclude most of the current southern Angeles National forest.

There was no mention of new wilderness areas, as this is strictly a study for inclusion in a National recreation area, or Recreational Open Space area, not a wilderness study. Not much was addressed among the group discussions about the lower watershed, including the various cities and the Chino-Puente hills area, though the meetings in El Monte and Diamond bar would have had more involvement in those areas.

There is a comment period on the current presentation through October 30th. At the above web site, click on “Newsletter 4” then click on the “Comment on Document” link on the left side of the screen.

They need to hear from as many mountain bikers as possible, to ensure that we are represented as a large and growing user group of the forest. To make comments, here’s my list of my answers and talking points:

NPS Public Comment Topic Questions:

1. Is there one alternative concept or idea presented that you think is most valuable in terms of improving recreational opportunities and protecting significant resources? Tell us why you think this idea is valuable.

The inclusion of the largest land area, Alternative A, would give the most coverage and likely bring the most resources in to manage the national forest.   A combination of Alternatives A & C would provide the most coverage of important natural resources, including both mountain and river protections and opportunities for interpretation.  A combination of A & C would create a strong federal management partnership between the USFS and NPS and a strong recreational identity for the San Gabriel Mountains and watershed.


2. What suggestion do you have for strengthening or improving on the alternative concepts? Do you have an entirely different vision of how the area should be managed? If so, please describe your vision.

However, the inclusion of the lower watershed portions of Alternatives B and C, which incorporates much of the green belts along the rivers and the Chino-Puente hills, would present the most recreational opportunities to the largest number people. Perhaps some hybrid of these proposals in which the NPS and USFS manage the San Gabriel Mountains portion, and together oversee the partnership outlined in Alternative C as an open space network.

3. What concerns do you have about the current alternatives?

Recreation. The most productive use of the forest should continue to be recreation, as outlined in the current Forest Plan, and recreational access should be increased through a more streamlined process for getting new recreational projects approved. Recreational projects should be given administrative and considerational priority over commercial and other proposals, since the most productive and valuable use of the forest has been deemed recreational. We would hope that the NPS could bring in additional staff to more rapidly complete studies required by the NEPA process. These goals would seem to be in line with a National “Recreation” area.

Mountain bike access. There is a strong need for an area for mountain bike specific trails for this fast growing user group, both to take pressure off existing multi-use trails and minimize disparate user group conflicts. However, this should not be at the expense of continued access to the existing trail network, which are currently enjoyed by many thousands of mountain bikers annually with few conflicts. A mountain-bike specific area or trail network would serve a subset of the mountain bike community whose major preference is technical downhill riding, and whose need has been demonstrated by the continued construction of illegal trails that meet that need within the region. This would remain under Forest Service management within the proposal, and no NPS policy should preclude the fulfilling of this recognized need.

Protection. Wilderness designations should be actively discouraged from any recommendation, legislation or amendments to legislation, as such designations do not meet the requirements for the best recreational use or protection of wild areas. Other protections are available that allow better management and access to wild areas without compromising biological protection. Other political and user groups are seeing this study and proposal as a way to slip in more wilderness designations. This is contrary to the recreational nature of the forest and not in the best interest of the public as a whole.

Management.  The Forest Service should be allowed to continue to implement its Forest Master Plan, albeit with additional resources and funding provided by the NPS within their shared goals and objectives. They have already invested years of study into the area, and have developed a master plan that at present provides the best guideline for the management and further development of the forest.

4. What are your thoughts or comments on the study findings (significance, suitability or feasibility)?

There is no doubt among any who have hiked, mountain biked, soared (hang gliders), ridden horses, off-highway vehicles, rock climbed, or done any geological, biological  or archaeological study, that the area is significant, unique, and worthy of including in the NPS system.

The biggest concern then becomes the addition of an additional layer of bureaucracy when trying to make improvements in access, recreational opportunities or facilities. Based on information in the presentation, those concerns appear to be minimized in the present proposals. The political manipulation of legislation that may be introduced as a result of the study favoring one user group over another, or one type of biological protection over another, then becomes the major future consideration, and that is largely beyond the scope of the present study.

Summary and Future:

There is nothing presently in the study that would threaten mountain bike access to the Naitonal Forest. In fact, all indications are that the increased funding and NPS administrative assistance, as Alternatives A and C would provide, would be beneficial to all forest user groups. Perhaps some hybrid of the alternatives would be best. The NPS will hopefully determine that from the comments and meetings.

At present, we should keep monitoring the web site <http://www.nps.gov/pwro/sangabriel> for changes and updates. The newsletters (Currently number 4) outline the progress of the study and explain each of the currently proposed alternatives in detail, including the vision, concept, management structure and funding.

Post your comments to the NPS web site as mentioned previously, and feel free to use what has been provided above or to elaborate or put your own thoughts into words.

The next round of public meetings will take place once the draft proposal is ready (Q4 2010), and we’ll have the opportunity to make our voices heard again then.

Poop Predicament Has Los Angeles Horse Owners Raising a Stink

Friday, April 25th, 2008

April 25, 2008 (Bloomberg) — The poop hit the fan when the last manure mulcher in Los Angeles closed shop.


Fritz Bronner, a local horse owner and activist, feeds two of his five Arabian geldings in the corral behind his house in the Lake View Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles on April 8, 2008. Los Angeles is home to some 1,500 legally registered horses, but the actual count is more like 10,000, according to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. Photographer: Nadja Brandt/Bloomberg News

The price of poop disposal is breaking the budgets of Los Angeles horse owners, as stable owners pass along the expense of taking horse droppings to landfills.

“The cost to get rid of this stuff has just skyrocketed,” said Royan Herman, 65, who runs the Peacock Hill and J-Bar Ranch stables in the San Fernando Valley with her husband, Mark. “A lot of young families aren’t able to afford a horse anymore.”

Los Angeles, the city of Hollywood stars, is also home to about 10,000 horses, said City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. Some estimates of the horse population run as high as 20,000 within city limits and 45,000 in all of Los Angeles County, which has 9.9 million residents.

The waste produced by horses living in a big city wasn’t a problem for decades, as plant nurseries and compost yards accepted manure and turned it into fertilizer. When zoning officials allowed developers to build homes close to those sites, new residents complained of the stench and nurseries began turning away the dung. The owner of the last compost yard, Dickran Sarkisian, said he closed in October because he wasn’t able to renew the lease.

Depositing manure at a landfill costs as much as $47 a ton, five times what the mulchers charged, said Mark Herman of Peacock Hill and J-Bar. Stable owners can’t afford to stay in business unless they pass that expense to boarders, he said.

“In the last four to five years, the cost for individual horse owners has doubled,” said Herman, 85. He said the 120 horses at his stables produce as much as 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) of manure a day.

Equine Surrender

Some Angelenos said the rising stable fees are forcing them to give up their beloved horses.

“The prices for boarding a horse are crazy,” said Rachel Rosenberg, 24, an aspiring actress who keeps her mustang, Indie, at Ravensview Ranch. “If I don’t get enough hours together at work, I won’t be able to afford him.”

Jack Quigley, a retired oil field production technician, already had to sell his mare, Fancy.

“I loved her to death,” said Quigley, 67. “But I couldn’t afford to keep her.”

Barbara Underwood, 65, who owns Ravensview, a 27-horse stable near Burbank, said she lost eight boarders when she raised prices. She charges $300 a month for a small corral and $400 for a box stall, following the $15 increase in December. She expects to boost rates again soon, by $20.

At Peacock Hill and J-Bar, Royan Herman said she may have to raise fees by $100 from the current $300 to $450 a month.

Riding Territory

Los Angeles offers plenty of space and varied terrain for riding. The county encompasses 4,000 square miles (10,000 square kilometers), including a 70-mile (110-kilometer) Pacific Ocean coastline, mountains, forest and desert.

Some horse-friendly enclaves cater to riders. In Lake View Terrace, a dry cleaner has a hitching post, and street-crossing buttons at some intersections are at a height where they can be reached from horseback.

“It’s this incredible feeling of being in a different world,” said Fritz Bronner, 49, riding Faz, one of his five Arabian geldings, on one of Lake View Terrace’s bridal paths. “All along my street, there are horses and chickens and dogs. It’s a little country feel on a half acre.”

Much of the Los Angeles horse population is off the books. Only about 1,500 are registered, which is required by law, according to city officials.

Registration Drives

That doesn’t help the equine community’s cause, said Greuel, the councilwoman. She’s pushing for a Horse Advisory Task Force to get more owners to comply, so they’ll have a bigger voice in municipal affairs.

Some residents including formed “poop councils” and staged registration drives to educate owners and encourage them to sign up their animals for $14 a year.

“I’ve never even heard of registering your horse,” said Sari Sarlund, 41, who boards her Frido at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

Horses generate an estimated $900 million in ancillary revenues a year, Bronner said, sustaining riding teachers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, and feed and tack stores. Bronner, an actor, runs a non-profit service that provides Arabian horses for military re-enactments, parades, films and television.

“It’s an underground economy,” said Bronner, who serves on the Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council. “We never get credit for it. It’s never properly accounted for.”

Poop could add even more cash to city coffers. Councilman Richard Alarcon started a pilot program to recycle some of the manure into compost.

“We are looking at every option available to us, including the generation of electricity,” Greuel said.

Bronner said he’s worried that the poop-disposal crisis and lack of political clout may spell an end to the intangible benefits of sharing Los Angeles with horses.

“The clip-clop on the streets is soothing,” Bronner said. “Horses just slow everything down a bit. Traffic slows down, you slow down.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nadja Brandt in Los Angeles at nbrandt@bloomberg.net

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

 

Vote for the Backbone Trail

Monday, October 31st, 2016

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Our friends at the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council are in the running for a considerable donation towards maintenance of the Backbone Trail. Anheuser-Busch is giving away up to $200,000 for trail maintenance around the country through the Michelob Ultra Go The Extra Mile Fund.

Here’s the catch: the public decides how much of that pie each nominated trail will receive. Twelve trails have been nominated, including the recently completed Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. The funds will be divided between the twelve nominated trails, based on the percentage of votes each trail receives.

Votes must be cast by November 30th, and you must be at least 21 years of age to visit the site and vote.  Every vote makes a difference!

Vote now for the Backbone Trail!

 

 

Canyon Trail Sand Fire Trailwork

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Last Saturday, September 10, about 30 mountain bikers joined 50 or so HandsOn Santa Clarita volunteers to help with Sand Fire cleanup at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.

The HandsOn crew focused on the west end of the trail and the parkland surrounding the Nature Center.  Meanwhile the SCV Trail Users headed up to the more heavily burned area at Walker Ranch campground.

We split up and built eight debris check dams in drainages that lead into the streambed of Placerita Creek. After a fire, soil and ash denuded of vegetation, can become major debris flows with a relatively small amount of rain. These debris flows do more damage to trails than anything else. We saw it in many areas of the Station Fire. I did an interview for Mountain Bike Action magazine, discussing the impacts of fire to trails.

The eight debris check dams will help capture sediment and slow down flows before they cross the trail and enter the canyon. They were constructed of native rock and sand bags filled from the dry streambed, upstream of the check dams.

Thanks to all the volunteers who came out to help, LA County for allowing us to help protect the trail we lobbied for access to, and to the SCV Trail Users for coordinating the effort.

We’re fulfilling our promise of being both responsible trail users, and stewards of our trails and public lands.

 

President’s Message: The Wilderness Debate

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Trail in the Fish Canyon Recommended Wilderness

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.  

20071201007a-Condor Peak OTB, MTB

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

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.

Singletracks.com, an internet blog, found the vast majority of mountain bikers surveyed support bicycle access to wilderness. The Angry Singlespeeder gave his take on the issue, calling it the most pressing of our time, and followed it this year with an Open Letter to every IMBA member calling on us to demand IMBA to listen to its membership and take a more proactive stance towards the STC. Former IMBA Board Member John Bliss explained why he joined the STC board, with some compelling arguments.

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.