Posts Tagged ‘USFS’

California Bicycle Access Threatened

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

ALERT! Mountain bikers stand to lose treasured backcountry riding experiences in Southern California’s national forests.

Take Action! Let the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) know that you support IMBA’s position to protect mountain bike access. We made it easy, just sign our petition (click on Take Action! at the beginning of this paragraph). Comments are due Mon., June 11.

In the four Southern California national forests: Los Padres, Angles, San Bernardino and Cleveland the USFS is currently planning for management of their backcountry lands. In order to maximize riding opportunities and not lose mountain bike access to trails, it is imperative that you ask the USFS to use a “Backcountry Non-Motorized” designation.

The plans for these forests will decide where mountain bikes are allowed and where we are banned. Their current proposals include “Recommended Wilderness” (banned) and “Backcountry Non-Motorized” (allowed) designations.

In several previous decisions, the USFS decided to manage “Recommended Wilderness” as if it were congressionally designated Wilderness. IMBA strongly objects to this policy.

IMBA needs your help to maximize the riding opportunities in these great forests.

Read more about the project.

9th District Court Rules against the Forest Adventure Pass

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a published opinion on February 9th reversed and remanded a lower court ruling that had dismissed a case against the U.S. Forest Service.  They found in Adams v. USFS that the Recreational Enhancement Act “unambiguously prohibits the Forest Service from charging fees in the Mount Lemmon HIRA for recreational visitors who park a car, then camp at undeveloped sites, picnic along roads or trailsides, or hike through the area without using the facilities and services.”

Excerpted from the published opinion:

“The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (“REA”) prohibits the United States Forest Service from charging fees “[s]olely for parking, undesignated parking, or picnicking along roads or trailsides,” for “hiking through . . . without using the facilities and services,” and “[f]or camping at undeveloped sites . . . .” 16 U.S.C. § 6802(d)(1)(A), (D) & (E).

“Despite these clear prohibitions, the Forest Service collects fees from all drivers who park their vehicles in a mile-wide piece of the Coronado National Forest running along the 28–mile Catalina Highway, the only paved road to the summit of Mount Lemmon, a heavily used recreational area an hour’s drive from downtown Tucson, Arizona.

“Four recreational visitors sued, seeking a declaration that  the Forest Service was exceeding the scope of its authority under the REA by charging fees to those who drive to Mount Lemmon, park their cars, then picnic, hike, or camp in nearby undeveloped areas. Plaintiffs also sought to enjoin the Forest Service from collecting such fees. The district court granted defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs appealed. Because plaintiffs are correct that the Forest Service’s fee structure contravenes the plain language of the REA, we reverse the district court’s dismissal of Count I and remand to allow plaintiffs to pursue that claim.”

In CORBA’s ongoing relationship with the Forest Service, we understand that locally the Adventure Pass is a major source of their funding for on-the-ground projects, maintenance and services. Even with Adventure Pass fees, they are grossly under-funded.

It is unclear at this point how the ruling will affect Southern California’s Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernadino National Forests, where the adventure pass program has been in place for more than a decade. Currently, fees are required for all vehicles that park within the forest boundary, even if, as in the plaintiff’s case, no facilities are used. Many eyes will be watching when Adams v. USFS returns to the lower court.

Angeles National Forest Trails to Open May 16, 2011

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The two questions we have been asked more than any other recently: “which trails are closed in the Angeles National Forest?  and “which trails are open in the Angeles National Forest?”

According to the Forest Service map of the station fire closure area at the list below shows the status, effective May 16 2011, of some of the more popular trails that were affected by the Station Fire. Keep in mind that even though these trails are in the newly opened areas of the forest, the individual trails may be signed closed.  Please respect any trail closure signs and stay off those trails for your own safety and the recovery of the forest.

Many of the trails will not be in good shape, so be prepared for surprises like downed trees, slides, washouts, ruts, and other hazards. Many trails have been drastically changed from before the Station Fire. Many fire roads have not yet been graded and may be much narrower and in very poor condition with ruts and washouts. All the usual caveats about trail safety apply so use the trails safely and responsibly, and be especially careful the first time you travel on one of the newly opened trails.

Opened Trails (As of May 16, 2011 – Updated July 31, 2011) – 

  • Brown Mountain (to the saddle)
  • El Prieto
  • Gabrielino (JPL to Paul Little)
  • Gabrielino (Switzers to Redbox to Chantry)
  • Bear Canyon Trail
  • Sam Merrill Trail
  • Castle Canyon Trail
  • Sunset Ridge Trail
  • Mt. Lowe West Trail
  • Idlehour Trail
  • Kenyon Devore Trail
  • Rim Trail
  • Sturtevant Trail
  • Santa Clara Divide Truck Trail (Dillon Divide to Mt. Gleason to Three Points – non-motorized only)
  • Chilao Loop/Mt. Hillyer
  • Silver Mocassin
  • Shortcut
  • Valley forge
  • Mt. Lukens road (once the highway opens)
  • Earl Canyon
  • Haines Canyon
  • Mt Lukens Fire Road (as of June 3 opening of Angeles Crest Highway)
  • Graveyard Truck Trail
  • Grizzly Flat Fire Road
  • Doc Larsen
  • Everything east of Chilao

Keep in mind that even though these trails are in the opened area, the individual trails may be signed closed (And those signs mustl be respected). Many of the trails will not be in good shape, so be prepared for surprises like downed trees, massive ruts or slides, washouts, and other hazards.

Closed Trails (Until Further Notice)

  • Strawberry Peak
  • Tom Sloan
  • Dawn Mine
  • Millard Falls
  • Upper Brown Mountain (Saddle to the Summit/Ken Burton)
  • Ken Burton
  • Gabrielino from Switzers to Paul Little
  • Hoyt
  • Stone Canyon
  • Crescenta View
  • Rim of the Valley
  • Condor Peak Trail
  • Trail Canyon
  • Alder Creek
  • Colby Canyon
  • Josephine
  • Mueller Tunnel
  • Vetter Mountain

In addition to the above a separate closure remains in effect for the Williamson Rock area  (Closure Map is available).

GAO Station Fire Investigation Update

Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Congressman Schiff, Stephen Gaty, Tom Harbour and Marty Dumpis.

Congressman Schiff's Panel

Today, April 28, 2011, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) hosted a panel discussion on the ongoing investigation into the Station Fire being conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The room at Altadena Public Library was filled to capacity with standing room only, with several TV cameras and members of the Media there to cover the event.

CORBA’s Steve Messer was also in attendance, looking for answers to unresolved questions about how the fire was managed. Messer was in the forest the day the Station Fire began, scheduled to do trailwork on the Sam Merrill trail with CORBA’s volunteer trail crew.

On the panel were Congressman Schiff, Stephen Gaty from the GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment team, Tom Harbour, director of Fire and Aviation for the USFS, and Deputy Superintendent of the Angeles National Forest, Marty Dumpis.

After Congressman Schiff gave a brief outline of the process and a summary of people’s concerns about the fire, each of the panel members gave opening remarks outlining where they are in the ongoing evaluation, and what we can look forward to. We learned from Gaty that the investigation is expected to continue until the end of the year, at which time the full report will be published on the GAO’s web site. The objectives of the investigation are to determine: how the Forest Service responded to the fire, whether or not they followed established procedures, the key questions their response to the fire raised, and what they can learn from the incident moving forward.

Tom Harbour gave a rundown of how things have changed, and how the FS has prepared for the upcoming fire season. According to Harbour, the FS has renewed and strengthened its communications and agreements with the L.A. County fire department, and that they will be prepared. We were assured that it will be easier for the FS to summon assets from L.A. County in the event of another fire.

There are 80 rotor-wing aircraft and 18 tankers in the FS fleet, he said, though he didn’t make it clear that this is for the USFS nationwide. It is an aging fleet including WWII era craft, which they don’t want to “wear out” by double-shifting. Many were dismayed at this revelation.  He assured people that life and property are the FS first priority, while on the other hand seeming to indicate that the wearing out of an aging fleet takes precedence in the management of assets.

Harbour also reiterated that the FS continues to evaluate the addition of night-flying capability to their fire fighting assets, something that could have quelled the fire on its first day. The evaluation is expected to take a further two months. Cost is the biggest issue at this time. Audience members raised the question of whether a 25 million investment in additional aircraft could be weighed against the cost of damage and recovery efforts. According to Gaty, that would be beyond the scope of the GAO investigation.

Many in the audience were not impressed by what they were hearing. One Big Tujunga canyon resident asked about the FS policy regarding structures on leased land within the forest, vs. the policy regarding structures on private land within the forest. He turned and asked the gathered crowd how many had lost homes in the fire. More than a dozen hands went up. Mr. Harbour was placed on the spot several times in succession as members of the audience questioned a policy that left their homes undefended.

The biggest criticisms laid against the FS by Schiff and echoed by many in the audience, was the length of time this investigation is taking to complete. La Canada-Flintridge council member Laura Olhasso rebuked the FS for drawing out this process for so long, and urged them to speed up this process. The audience applauded her comments.

More Forest Openings Expected

Of particular interest to many is the length of time the forest has remained closed. Marty Dumpis publicly announced that approximately 98,000 acres of the 180,000 acres in the current closure are expected to open by memorial day weekend. That will include about 110 miles of re-opened trails. The openings will mostly occur in the northern, eastern and western borders of the current closure.  Trails may not be in the best shape, he said, but many FS personnel have expressed frustration at their inability to enforce the closure. An open forest is easier to manage than a closed one.

Dumpis made no mention of the Angeles Front Country. We will continue to work with the Forest Service to help survey and restore trails in the closure area.  Dumpis also added that the Big Tujunga Canyon area will likely remain closed for at least another year, as they monitor the recovery of endangered species and sensitive plant species.

Through a grant from the Air Quality Management District, they have begun re-planting about 11,000 acres of forest, mostly in the high country. 4,000 of those acres will be completed this year.

Public Input Requested

Gaty extended an invitation to anyone with information that may be relevant to the investigation to contact his office. Though he couldn’t confirm that every question would be answered by the investigation, he felt it important to gather as many of those questions and observations as people had.

Though the session was important, many left dissatisfied with what they learned, or rather, didn’t learn today.  We thank Congressman Schiff for continuing to move this investigation forward, and for involving the public in the process.

Outside Mag: The Ban on Bicycles in Wilderness is Dead Wrong

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Outside Online, the online companion site to Outside Magazine,  recently published online an excellent article about the ban on Bikes in Wilderness areas. The article originally appeared in print in March. Echoing the arguments put forth by IMBA, CORBA and mountain bike groups across the country, the article lays out the reasons that lifting the ban could lead to more land being protected. If wilderness did not exclude bicycles, millions of mountain biking Americans would join with environmentalists to support new wilderness designations.

IMBA is working with agencies at the Federal and local level to incorporate alternate designations that allow mountain biking while still offering similar environmental protection.

You can read the article on Outside Online, or see the full text of the article is after the break.